The London Medical Academy’s website www.study-medicine-in-europe.co.uk seen on 28 March 2021, promoted medical courses at universities across Europe. Text stated, “guaranteed placement to study medicine … Choose from the following courses at Universities all recognised by the GMC (General Medical Council) …” One of the Universities listed was Kiev’s International European University, in Ukraine.
The complainant, who understood that the International European University’s licence to offer higher education courses had been revoked, challenged whether the claim that it was recognised by the GMC was misleading.
The London Medical Academy sent us a screenshot of a listing on The World Directory of Medical Schools, which they said showed that the International European University was licensed.
They also provided links to the GMC website page which listed their criteria for acceptable overseas qualifications; the page which highlighted what overseas medical qualifications they did not accept; and the page which highlighted overseas medical qualifications they may accept.
They also supplied a document which they said showed that the International European University had had its licence reinstated by April 2021.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the listed universities, including Kiev’s International European University, were recognised by the GMC and that the institution in question was, at the time the ad was seen, able to offer accredited higher education courses. We acknowledged that the claim that all the listed courses were recognised by the GMC had later been removed by the advertiser, although noted that courses at the International European University were still offered.
The complainant had provided us with a document, dated 4 March 2021, which indicated that the International European University’s licence to offer higher education had been revoked after a recent inspection. While we acknowledged that the London Medical Academy sent us information about the International European University’s listing on The World Directory of Medical Schools, we noted that the listing had little detail beyond stating that it was “currently operational”, and made no reference to the annulment – or any potential reinstatement – of the university’s license to conduct educational activities.
We also noted that the website had a disclaimer which stated “The listing of a medical school in the World Directory of Medical Schools does not denote recognition, accreditation, or endorsement by the World Directory of Medical Schools or by partner organizations leading this venture…”.
The London Medical Academy later sent us documents which appeared to show that, as of 29 July 2021, following an updated order dated 26 April 2021, the International European University again had a current licence to operate as a higher education institution. We were concerned, however, that none of the evidence they provided gave any indication that, at the time of the complaint, the university had been either licensed by the government of Ukraine, or recognised by the GMC in the UK.
The CAP Code required advertisers to hold documentary evidence to support objective claims, prior to making them. As the London Medical Academy provided us with no evidence that the International European University had a license to offer higher education courses or was recognised by the GMC at the time of the complaint, we considered the impression given by the ad that all courses offered by the London Medical Academy were recognised by the GMC and were accredited higher education courses had not been substantiated, and was therefore misleading. We concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told London Medical Academy – Pre Medical Education Ltd not to state or imply that the courses they offered were accredited higher education courses or were recognised by the GMC, if that was not the case.