Choosing the right course and provider is a very important decision – you’ll be investing a lot of time, money, and effort, and it can be difficult to change if you’re not satisfied. Knowing your rights under consumer law will help make sure you get all the information you need and are treated fairly during your studies. You can find out more about this on the Competition and Markets Authority website.
A word of warning: This information only applies to students who are ‘consumers’ under consumer law. Generally speaking, if you are acting for purposes outside your trade, business, or profession, you will be considered a ‘consumer’. See the below section ‘What can you do if things go wrong?’ for organisations that can give you further advice on whether you are a ‘consumer’ under consumer law.
What should you check when choosing a provider and course?
To help you make an informed decision about where to apply and what to study, and whether to accept an offer, the provider is required to make information available to you.
You should read and understand this information before making a decision. You should also be given a reasonable opportunity to read and understand the terms and conditions of the contract between yourself and the provider before you accept their offer of a place.
What should you expect when you get to university or college?
Once you accept an offer of a place, a contract is formed and the provider’s terms and conditions apply. These must be fair, limiting their scope to change the cost or content of a course.
If you think your provider may not have met its obligations under consumer law, speak to the staff delivering the course, those who deal with student problems, or the student advice office or students' union. If you think it is still unresolved and wish to make a complaint, you should do this using the provider's complaints process, which must be fair, transparent, and easily accessible to students.
These consumer helplines are staffed by trained consumer advice professionals. They will be able to advise you whether a HE provider appears to have met their obligations under consumer law or not. They can also give you advice about your particular issue and possible remedies. The Citizens Advice consumer service can also help you report a problem to Trading Standards.
If you are not happy with how your university or college handles a complaint, you may be able to refer it to an independent complaints scheme, such as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for England and Wales, or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.