A website for the London School of Planning Management (LSPM), www.lspm.org.uk, seen in January 2023, featured a page with a course listing titled “Master of Business Administration (MBA) (12 months)”. The page featured text stating “Course Code MBA-12”, and under the heading “Our Qualifications” further text stated, “Fully Accredited & Accepted Worldwide”. The page also stated “Online with tutor support via live chat. No exams, assessments via submission of assignments …12 Months - GBP £7950 …18 Months - GBP £6950”.
Under the heading “Overview” text stated, “The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a prestigious postgraduate qualification that is highly valued by leading employers. It can boost your salary, increase your professional reputation and expand your networking opportunities …Why choose LSPM ? … Your qualification is recognised and accepted world over! […] We are accredited”.
The complainant, the Director of Quality and Standards at a UK university, who understood that the LSPM did not hold degree-awarding powers, challenged whether the ad, and particularly the claim “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”, was misleading.
The London School of Planning Management (LSPM) acknowledged certain elements of the ad lacked clarity and apologised for any confusion or misunderstanding that had arisen from it. They said they would take immediate steps to amend the ad.
The CAP Code required that marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so, and must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information.
The LSPM’s listing for the course was titled “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”, and the ad stated, “Fully Accredited & Accepted Worldwide” and “Course Code MBA-12”. In the context of the ad, we considered that consumers would be likely to understand the ad to be representative of a Masters-level postgraduate degree, awarded by an accredited higher education institution.
We understood that the LSPM did not deliver an MBA or hold degree-awarding powers, and the advertised course was instead a Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership. After completing the Level 7 Diploma through the LSPM it was possible for learners to go on to achieve an MBA with a different institution, by gaining further credits at one of four approved universities offering a corresponding ‘top up’ MBA course. We understood that this course took a further year and would also incur a fee. The application for the ‘top up’ MBA at a university was also completely independent from the Level 7 Diploma that the LSPM offered, and there was not an automatic pathway to enrolling for or achieving an MBA after the diploma.
The course listing did not feature any information communicating that the advertised service was a Level 7 Diploma rather than an MBA, or that an MBA could only be achieved by applying for and completing a further qualification independently at a different university. We considered that was material information, which required very prominent placement in the ad, to counteract the impression given by the ad’s claims. We therefore considered that the title of the qualification, “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”, and the various claims in the ad stating that the course was an “MBA”, were misleading and breached the Code.
We became aware during the course of the investigation that the ad had been amended to include additional information, which stated “Stage 1 (Delivered by LSPM): […] this stage leads to award of [sic] Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management”, and “Stage 2 (Delivered by the University / awarding body / university partner) On completion of the diploma programme you progress / Top up with Degree through a UK University for progression to the MBA degree. […] LSPM does not award degrees, Degrees are awarded by respective universities who accept Level 7 Diploma for top up degree”. However, we considered that consumers would have only been aware of that information if they scrolled to the foot of the ad and read the full page of text; it was not necessary either to contact the advertiser about the qualification or to apply to enrol for the course. We therefore considered that information was insufficiently prominent. The ad also did not make adequately clear that ‘Stage 2’, a ‘top up’ MBA, required an additional fee and was independent of the LSPM’s diploma, nor did it clarify which institutions delivered the top up course. We considered that the additional information added to the ad was therefore insufficient to counteract the overall impression given by the ad, and what it represented.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualifications).
The ad must not appear again in its complained of or amended form. We told the London School of Planning Management (LSPM) that their marketing communications must not misleadingly state or imply that they offered a Master of Business Administration (MBA).