Making sure higher education content is compliant

Making sure higher education content is compliant

4 minute read

Making sure higher education content is compliant

4 minute read

Making sure higher education content is compliant

Paige Toomes

Copywriter and Digital Marketer

Aside from wanting to provide a great user experience and meet audience needs with your content, there are lots of rules and regulations you need to comply with online if you want to be trusted and respected, and not land yourself in any legal trouble in higher education.

We wrote an article on broad web content standards not too long ago, which included some laws and regulations. But this article is about specific laws you need to follow for your content to be compliant in higher education. Here’s a quick breakdown of key ones you need to be compliant with:

Accessibility and new compliance deadlines

For higher education, accessibility remains one of the most important things to get right this year and in the future. A key document for accessibility compliance is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and there’s two editions: 2.0 and 2.1. However, the second doesn’t necessarily replace the first. This is a detailed document explaining everything you need to get right.

In the US, federal, state, and local government websites which must comply with Section 508 regulations, and make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

For public sector sites in the UK, there are new laws and requirements around accessibility that you need to be aware of, such as:

  • In the UK, all public sector websites and apps must be up to scratch with the WCAG 2.1 (level AA) standard and must include people with disabilities in user research and have an accessibility statement on their website. Here are the deadlines:

  • The compliance deadline for websites published on or after 23 September 2018 was 23 September 2019
  • For websites published before 23 September 2018 it's 23 September 2020
  • The deadline for all apps to be compliant is 23 June 2021

What’s more, with COVID-19 changing the way students are learning, mobile access is increasing and so being mobile-friendly is a must for universities and colleges across the world.

Consumer Market Authority

In some countries and states, universities and colleges need to be in line with consumer law as students are classed as consumers. This is certainly the case for UK institutions.

Documents and guidance on consumer protection from The Competition and Markets Authority for higher education were published in March 2015, and The UK government has provided advice for higher education institutions including a short summary obligations under consumer protection law or the full guide.

UCAS also provides some good information on the topic, stating that the key areas for compliance are:

  • Information provision. Providing clear, comprehensive, and timely information.
  • Terms and conditions. Ensuring terms and conditions are fair, clear, and transparent.
  • Complaint handling processes and practices. Making complaints processes and practices fair and visible.

There have been plenty of news reports and high profile incidents with the CMA in the UK in the last few years when institutions have been burned and agreed to changes over fees, course costs and progression, and others have been warned over breaching consumer law. With COVID, the way universities are run and the way students gain access to the materials and lectures they are paying for is going to change drastically anyway, so this is something to pay attention to this year.

Image copyright

There are many, and increasing, cases where people are holding organisations accountable for using their work without the correct permissions. It’s easy to do and often an honest mistake from one of your writers or content creators, but in higher ed, or if you're any other large organisation with a big profile,  you don’t want that kind of bad publicity or negative attention.

You can use stock images, but a lot of these tend to be a turn-off for audiences if they look too forced or don’t fit your brand. We’d recommend, if you can, getting your own custom images made for your website and your blog. But if you’re just starting out or if this isn’t feasible, there are websites that are Creative Commons such as Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash which have nice, professional images that are okay to share on your personal and professional websites and social media.

Social media compliance

There are certain rules that you need to follow on social media to ensure you don’t fall prey to any faux pas or land yourself in legal trouble. Accessibility is one key area you should focus on - particularly with laws for your website and apps coming into force. Emojis and GIFS are fun and useful, but can somebody with impaired access read them? It’s important to describe as fully as you can images that are on your social media post.

It’s also important to make sure you are tagging, quoting and crediting people properly on social media. This can be time consuming but it’s a necessity. If you’re sharing an external article on social media, always find the handle of the writer or organisation publishing it and use ‘via’ or mention them in the post. Add compliance points to your content style guide. We’ve written an article on things to include in your social media content strategy which may be useful here too.

GDPR

The impact of GDPR in higher education was profound. It completely changed the way data was collected, stored and available to students. With Brexit, many are still questioning its relevance, but UK organisations still need to comply with GDPR. As it has an extraterritorial effect, non-EU countries are affected. US colleges also need to get serious about data protection. EDUCASE have provided a list of federal data protection laws affecting higher education. But, if you have overseas students in the UK or EU countries, then you need to be clued up on GDPR anyway.

The GDPR has also affected content marketing significantly. However, it has actually fortified the new era of inbound and permission marketing, as opposed to spam and one-way communications. If you use marketing automation tools, many are pre-configured with data protection standards, so you'll probably just need to tweak a few settings to get your digital marketing under control.

Compliance is more important than ever

Aside from being a serious legal issue, compliance with the above laws and regulations shows your audience that you care. And that upholds your brand reputation. It’s as simple as that. In the wake of COVID-19, things are uncertain. But one thing that you can do to prepare your institution for now and the future is to get compliant.

To help, we’ve put together a web content standards checklist of key things to include when reviewing content for quality and compliance. You can use it to do a final check for content standards before publishing. It includes areas like ownership and accountability, meeting needs and goals, accuracy and consistency, language, format and structure, accessibility, usability and inclusivity, and SEO best practices.

GatherContent helps higher ed institutions with compliance, quality and productivity in their content. Read more about how it can help your institution on our higher education industry page.

Aside from wanting to provide a great user experience and meet audience needs with your content, there are lots of rules and regulations you need to comply with online if you want to be trusted and respected, and not land yourself in any legal trouble in higher education.

We wrote an article on broad web content standards not too long ago, which included some laws and regulations. But this article is about specific laws you need to follow for your content to be compliant in higher education. Here’s a quick breakdown of key ones you need to be compliant with:

Accessibility and new compliance deadlines

For higher education, accessibility remains one of the most important things to get right this year and in the future. A key document for accessibility compliance is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and there’s two editions: 2.0 and 2.1. However, the second doesn’t necessarily replace the first. This is a detailed document explaining everything you need to get right.

In the US, federal, state, and local government websites which must comply with Section 508 regulations, and make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

For public sector sites in the UK, there are new laws and requirements around accessibility that you need to be aware of, such as:

  • In the UK, all public sector websites and apps must be up to scratch with the WCAG 2.1 (level AA) standard and must include people with disabilities in user research and have an accessibility statement on their website. Here are the deadlines:

  • The compliance deadline for websites published on or after 23 September 2018 was 23 September 2019
  • For websites published before 23 September 2018 it's 23 September 2020
  • The deadline for all apps to be compliant is 23 June 2021

What’s more, with COVID-19 changing the way students are learning, mobile access is increasing and so being mobile-friendly is a must for universities and colleges across the world.

Consumer Market Authority

In some countries and states, universities and colleges need to be in line with consumer law as students are classed as consumers. This is certainly the case for UK institutions.

Documents and guidance on consumer protection from The Competition and Markets Authority for higher education were published in March 2015, and The UK government has provided advice for higher education institutions including a short summary obligations under consumer protection law or the full guide.

UCAS also provides some good information on the topic, stating that the key areas for compliance are:

  • Information provision. Providing clear, comprehensive, and timely information.
  • Terms and conditions. Ensuring terms and conditions are fair, clear, and transparent.
  • Complaint handling processes and practices. Making complaints processes and practices fair and visible.

There have been plenty of news reports and high profile incidents with the CMA in the UK in the last few years when institutions have been burned and agreed to changes over fees, course costs and progression, and others have been warned over breaching consumer law. With COVID, the way universities are run and the way students gain access to the materials and lectures they are paying for is going to change drastically anyway, so this is something to pay attention to this year.

Image copyright

There are many, and increasing, cases where people are holding organisations accountable for using their work without the correct permissions. It’s easy to do and often an honest mistake from one of your writers or content creators, but in higher ed, or if you're any other large organisation with a big profile,  you don’t want that kind of bad publicity or negative attention.

You can use stock images, but a lot of these tend to be a turn-off for audiences if they look too forced or don’t fit your brand. We’d recommend, if you can, getting your own custom images made for your website and your blog. But if you’re just starting out or if this isn’t feasible, there are websites that are Creative Commons such as Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash which have nice, professional images that are okay to share on your personal and professional websites and social media.

Social media compliance

There are certain rules that you need to follow on social media to ensure you don’t fall prey to any faux pas or land yourself in legal trouble. Accessibility is one key area you should focus on - particularly with laws for your website and apps coming into force. Emojis and GIFS are fun and useful, but can somebody with impaired access read them? It’s important to describe as fully as you can images that are on your social media post.

It’s also important to make sure you are tagging, quoting and crediting people properly on social media. This can be time consuming but it’s a necessity. If you’re sharing an external article on social media, always find the handle of the writer or organisation publishing it and use ‘via’ or mention them in the post. Add compliance points to your content style guide. We’ve written an article on things to include in your social media content strategy which may be useful here too.

GDPR

The impact of GDPR in higher education was profound. It completely changed the way data was collected, stored and available to students. With Brexit, many are still questioning its relevance, but UK organisations still need to comply with GDPR. As it has an extraterritorial effect, non-EU countries are affected. US colleges also need to get serious about data protection. EDUCASE have provided a list of federal data protection laws affecting higher education. But, if you have overseas students in the UK or EU countries, then you need to be clued up on GDPR anyway.

The GDPR has also affected content marketing significantly. However, it has actually fortified the new era of inbound and permission marketing, as opposed to spam and one-way communications. If you use marketing automation tools, many are pre-configured with data protection standards, so you'll probably just need to tweak a few settings to get your digital marketing under control.

Compliance is more important than ever

Aside from being a serious legal issue, compliance with the above laws and regulations shows your audience that you care. And that upholds your brand reputation. It’s as simple as that. In the wake of COVID-19, things are uncertain. But one thing that you can do to prepare your institution for now and the future is to get compliant.

To help, we’ve put together a web content standards checklist of key things to include when reviewing content for quality and compliance. You can use it to do a final check for content standards before publishing. It includes areas like ownership and accountability, meeting needs and goals, accuracy and consistency, language, format and structure, accessibility, usability and inclusivity, and SEO best practices.

GatherContent helps higher ed institutions with compliance, quality and productivity in their content. Read more about how it can help your institution on our higher education industry page.

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About the author

Paige Toomes

Paige is an English Literature and Media graduate from Newcastle University, and over the last three years has built up a career in SEO-driven copywriting for tech companies. She has written for Microsoft, Symantec and LinkedIn, as well as other SaaS companies and IT consulting firms. With an audience-focused approach to content, Paige handles the lifecycle from creation through to measurement, supporting businesses with their content operations.

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