The University has a legal obligation to comply with consumer protection legislation including The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
Compliance with consumer protection laws is monitored externally by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Office for Students (OfS). The CMA has issued advice on consumer protection law in relation to higher education in England. This guidance sets out the responsibilities of higher education providers in relation to both prospective and current students. The CMA have also published a guide to consumer rights for students.
The CMA's advice outlines the responsibilities of the institution before a student applies, when an offer is made and during enrolment, including details of the information which a student should be provided with at each stage.
In particular the University must provide accurate, accessible and material information about the courses offered including details of entry requirements, course structures, total course costs and any policies by which they will be bound. This includes anything which a student will rely upon in making their decision to apply to and/or accept an offer at the University. Any information that a student receives before they accept their place may form a term of the contract between the University and the student. Any subsequent changes to this information requires explicit student consent.
If the University fails to comply with the terms of the contract (the offer), a student may have rights of recourse under consumer legislation. Non-compliance may result in a variety of sanctions against the University. These include price reductions and refunds of fees, fines, reputational damage and the possibility of review by the OfS, the CMA or the Quality Assurance Agency.
How we comply
The University ensures compliance at each of the three stages:
At the Application/Enquiry stage, the University provides comprehensive, clear information to enable applicants to make an informed decision. This includes the course structure and the fees/costs (including any additional course costs), relevant non-course-related information (such as accommodation options and college costs) and any important or ‘surprising’ rules and regulations. Each course has a dedicated webpage (for both undergraduate and graduate courses) which includes details of the course structure and content, teaching methods, examination methods, resources available, fees/costs, scholarship funding, and relevant non course-related information (such as accommodation options, visa information, etc.).
At the Offer stage, the relevant contractual information is provided as part of the offer (so before a prospective student agrees to accept the offer of a place). This includes three key documents: the Student Terms and Conditions, the relevant course information sheet and the applicant’s edition of the University Student Handbook. Offers are sent to applicants in writing and also include information about the applicant’s right to cancel, for any reason, within 14 days of acceptance.
All contractual information is published online, by admissions year, in an accessible and durable medium which allows students to refer back to the materials relevant to them at any time. In addition to the contractual documentation, full information is provided about their course, fees and general information about Oxford via the following webpages:
Changes to courses are regulated by the University’s Education Committee. If an authorised change has been made to a course at application stage, applicants and offer-holders will be contacted and given options as appropriate.
At the enrolment stage, the University ensures that all information provided is consistent with that provided to applicants. The enrolment stage is triggered at the point at which an applicant meets their conditions; at this stage they are issued with a ‘University Card Form’. Once completed, this triggers the issue of a student’s university card and access to relevant IT/other services, including the ability for them to complete their online enrolment processes. At enrolment, a number of orientation and induction sessions are organised by the University, departments and colleges, to welcome students and signpost them to the information they will need during their studies. All the information is also available online on the University’s website in a section dedicated to current students.
The University’s complaints and appeals policies and procedures are published on the admissions pages of the University website. Students are provided with clear information about complaint handling processes initially via the Student Handbook (issued to them as part of their offer of a place) and also via the current students section of the website, via a dedicated webpage.