|THE UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS
GUIDANCE ON USE OF DISCLAIMERS IN PRSSTUDENT FACING PUBLICITY
The Legal Context
Disclaimers seek to limit the University’s liability in certain situations. In general for a disclaimer to be enforceable it must be both fair and reasonable. The disclaimer must be easy to read and positioned in such a way that you would expect the student to be aware of its terms.
The University expects that disclaimers are used appropriately in accordance with its values, in particular the values of integrity and professionalism. Disclaimers should be as balanced and focused as possible and not be seen as a panacea that will provide protection against a wide breadth of problems – they won’t. Equally, disclaimers should be used sparingly. They need not appear on all publicity. We should be aware of the need to create a positive relationship with the student, based upon trust and not obfuscation.
There is a general expectation that where the University whether in writing or verbally makes a promise to a student it will look to stand by that promise. Disclaimers should be used where information provided or activities covered are likely to be subject to change. Of equal importance is that authors carefully consider where firm commitments can be made and for what period.
Clearance and Further Help
It is accepted that there are sometimes difficult judgements to be made about the use and form of disclaimer. Therefore wherever publicity (print and digital) is being produced staff should seek advice from the marketing department on the use of disclaimers. Please contact Miranda Walters at M.J.Walters@leeds.ac.uk.
General application rules
For most types of publication the applicable timescales relating to the information should be provided. This means that the types of publications listed below should have the applicable year indicated on the front cover of the publication e.g. “Your Home 2016”, “Open Day Guide June 2016”.
It is the context of the activity, profile of risk, alongside style and content of the publication which determines the type of disclaimer to be used, not the size of the publication.
The disclaimer header should always be titled ‘Important information’.
The disclaimer text should always appear at the beginning of the publication (positioned either inside front cover or page 1).
The disclaimer must be in the same font size and type as the main body text.
The default URL for latest information should always be www.leeds.ac.uk/coursefinder unless this doesn’t include the relevant information, for example Access to Leeds, postgraduate research degrees. In this instance the URL in the disclaimer can be replaced with the relevant information source URL for example www.leeds.ac.uk/researchfees (always use a friendly URL).
This disclaimer has been developed to cover a breadth of both academic and non-academic services. This breadth is both the disclaimers strength and weakness. The more focused a disclaimer is generally the better the chance that it will be relevant, improving the chances of enforceability.
As a default position staff should always consider whether the general disclaimer should be used.
Criteria for inclusion (one or more of the following):
Any publication that either includes course information (course structure, modules details, entry requirements, contact hours) or references activities where course information will be provided (such as the open day guide).
Any publication that includes information on general University services available.
The following text is the standard general disclaimer:
Information provided by the University such as in presentations, University brochures and the University website, is accurate at the time of first disclosure. However, courses, University services and content of publications remain subject to change. Changes may be necessary to comply with the requirements of accrediting bodies or to keep courses contemporary through updating practices or areas of study. Circumstances may arise outside the reasonable control of the University, leading to required changes. Such circumstances include, industrial action, unexpected student numbers, significant staff illness (where a course is reliant upon a person’s expertise), unexpected lack of funding, severe weather, fire, civil disorder, political unrest, government restrictions and serious concern with regard to the transmission of serious illness making a course unsafe to deliver. After a student has taken up a place with the University, the University will look to give early notification of any changes and try to minimise their impact, offering suitable alternative arrangements or forms of compensation where it believes there is a fair case to do so. Offers of a place to study at the University will provide up to date information on courses. The latest key information on courses, entry requirements and fees can be found at www.leeds.ac.uk/coursefinder. Please check this website before making any decisions.
Types of publication that should include the default disclaimer include:
• Course brochures (including module or programme sheets)
• Applicant guides (Your Offer, Your Arrival)
• Open day guide
• Access to Leeds brochure
With the agreement of the marketing department, alternative wording can be used where appropriate to the context of the publication. As mentioned above context will look at activity, profile of risk, alongside style and content of the publication. For example, the below may be an appropriate disclaimer on occasions where the only concern is about changing information:
The following text is an alternative (short) disclaimer:
Some of the key information in this brochure remains subject to confirmation. Please check for the latest information using the websites and other resources referred to before making any decisions.
Types of publication that should include the above disclaimer include:
Acceptance publications (Your Place, Your Home)
Accommodation viewing day guide
Accommodation ‘at a glance guide’
Scholarship leaflets or flyers
Changing the Main Text
On many occasions rather than producing a general disclaimer it would be better to include within the main text of the publications any necessary conditionality. For example, if the publication is about study abroad with destinations and collaborative hosts subject to change, it would be best to make this clear alongside the relevant accompanying text. Equally if we are offering an activity that is subject to a finite capacity that is likely to be an issue, then this again should be highlighted. An example of this may be where modules or placements can only be offered to a limited number of students, selected on a “first come first served” basis or subject to a competition.
Where there is a possibility that a course accreditation could be withdrawn by the relevant professional body at any point during the duration of the course then it should be made clear alongside the relevant accompanying text. An example of this may be “…this course is presently accredited by ….”.
When giving a presentation staff should be aware that if they make promises or commitments they are representing a set position to others. Therefore regardless of the use of disclaimers staff should always consider necessary conditionality. Essentially, staff should be conscious that they only promise what they know can be delivered. If a position is uncertain then staff should reflect that uncertainty in their language.
Faculty or School Information
Newsletter style publications which include general information about the faculty or school, research stories, student case studies, student societies and do not include specific course content (modules, entry requirements, fees) do not generally require any disclaimer.
Version 5 21 October 2016