THREE Scottish universities have been criticised for making potentially misleading claims on their websites.

Consumer group Which? said the online marketing material made it difficult for prospective students to make informed choices.

The latest concerns come a year after the Advertising Standards Authority told Strathclyde University to reference the statement that it was ranked first in the UK for physics research.

In the latest review, Which? University said six UK institutions had examples of “unsubstantiated or unverifiable claims” on websites “in likely breach of advertising standards”.

The report said Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, had described itself as one of the world’s leading universities for pioneering research “informed by the needs of business and industry”.

However, Which? University said the claim was not supported by accessible facts or figures on its website.

Aberdeen University said it was ranked consistently among the world’s top universities, but did not verify the claim, according to the consumer group.

And the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) claimed it ranked in the top three per cent of universities worldwide in its Google search descriptor.

Which? University said it did not believe the claim was “sufficiently transparent or verifiable.”

Alex Hayman, managing director of Which? University, said the fact claims were being made less than a year after ASA issued advice was particularly concerning.

He said: “It is critical that prospective students can trust the facts that higher education institutions are putting forward, but we’ve found numerous examples of universities falling short.

“We want universities to act responsibly in line with the ASA’s guidelines.”

The universities involved said published information was accurate and verifiable.

A spokesman for UWS said: “Where comparative claims are made we always ensure we have sufficient data to back up any claim and make sure the basis for any claim is clear in our advertising materials.”

Phil Hannaford, senior vice-principal at Aberdeen, said: “We are proud that we rank within the top 200 universities.

“This said, we would never want anyone to believe we have misrepresented our position, so we will enhance our website, marketing and other relevant material to provide clearer qualification regards supporting information.”

A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt said: “We stand by our reputation as one of the world’s leading universities for pioneering research informed by the needs of business and industry.”