Anglia Ruskin university paid Instagram influencer graduates to promote its degrees


Instagram influences were paid to promote a university’s degree courses as part of a campaign to attract A-Level students – despite not being enrolled there.

Bosses at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge say a dozen life-style, fashion and travel influencers were paid to promote the institution on Instagram in the weeks leading to this year’s A Level results.

Many of the posts carried captions that gushed about how important their time at university was. 

However many of those promoting ARU did not actually study at Anglia Ruskin, university chiefs have admitted.

They have also defended the marketing tactic, saying the Instagram posts were marked up as an ‘Ad’ and focus on the ‘wider benefits of considering a university education’.

Bosses at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge (pictured) say a dozen life-style, fashion and travel influencers were paid to promote the institution on Instagram in the weeks leading to this year’s A Level results

Many of the posts carried captions that gushed about how important their time at university was.  Travel blogger Lauren (pictured), who runs the Instagram account 'Spain With Lauren', also promoted Anglia Ruskin to her 10,400 followers - but with no mention of having studied there

Many of the posts carried captions that gushed about how important their time at university was.  Travel blogger Lauren (pictured), who runs the Instagram account ‘Spain With Lauren’, also promoted Anglia Ruskin to her 10,400 followers – but with no mention of having studied there

The promotions were shared on A-Level results day and were aimed at students who did not get the grades for their first choice of university, and had to go through clearing.

Influencers who promoted Anglia Ruskin included travel and lifestyle blogger Mariana Alonso, who has a following of 82,800.

She graduated seven years ago as an engineer from Faculdades Integradas de Cataguases, in Brazil.

Travel blogger Lauren, who runs the Instagram account ‘Spain With Lauren’, also promoted Anglia Ruskin to her 10,400 followers – but with no mention of having studied there.  

In her post, which included a picture of her and her partner in Spain, she said: ‘And to think, really, a degree is what made this all possible.

‘Alex studied sports at university which has opened up so many doors for us, in terms of heading into teaching.

She added: ‘It’s given us the flexibility to live and work wherever his job takes him.’ 

Meanwhile, travel, fashion and lifestyle influencer Grace Bee, who has 5,764 followers, admitted that she did not study at Anglia Ruskin – but promoting them was a ‘business transaction’.

In her post, which included a picture of her holding a camera, she said university had help her leave her comfort zone and that it is ‘never too late to learn something new’.

She told Vice: ‘For me personally, it was a business transaction.

Influencers who promoted Anglia Ruskin included travel and lifestyle blogger Mariana Alonso (pictured), who has a following of 82,800

Influencers who promoted Anglia Ruskin included travel and lifestyle blogger Mariana Alonso (pictured), who has a following of 82,800

Meanwhile, travel, fashion and lifestyle influencer Grace Bee (pictured), who has 5,764 followers, admitted that she did not study at Anglia Ruskin - but promoting them was a 'business transaction'

Meanwhile, travel, fashion and lifestyle influencer Grace Bee (pictured), who has 5,764 followers, admitted that she did not study at Anglia Ruskin – but promoting them was a ‘business transaction’

‘However, I’m quite picky with the brands I work with and I would never promote a brand I didn’t believe in.

‘Although I didn’t study at Anglia Ruskin, I think my time in further education was really formative so I was more than happy to promote it to my followers.’

Anglia Ruskin is one of the universities which spends the most money on marketing – in one year alone, they spent £1.19million on social media, search engines and print. 

A spokesperson for Anglia Ruskin University said: ‘We strongly believe in widening participation and a high proportion of our students are the first in their family to attend university.

‘Our Instagram partners talk about how their university experiences and qualifications have helped to transform their own lives – sometimes in quite radical ways.

‘These posts, all written by the individuals themselves and clearly marked with an ‘ad’ tag, focus on the wider benefits of considering a university education.’

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made an order for major stars in the UK to be more transparent over their endorsement deals when posting to social media

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made an order for major stars in the UK to be more transparent over their endorsement deals when posting to social media

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made an order for major stars in the UK to be more transparent over their endorsement deals when posting to social media. 

Influencers who do not clearly declare if they have been paid or received products as gifts they endorse, they could be in breach of consumer protection law.

Posts containing advertising must, by law, be flagged with the hashtag #ad, #sponsored or #freebie in a ‘prominent’ position on each individual post – as was done with the posts relating to Anglia Ruskin University.

All content that includes adverts or discount codes and provides a form of payment, whether monetary or in the shape of free gifts, must also be declared. 

In 2019, a number of top stars including singer Rita Ora, model Alexa Chung and Made in Chelsea star Louise Thompson pledged to declare their Instagram advertisements.

In August last year it was revealed that the platform itself was beginning to conduct tests in which some users will see advertisements in the story section of the app, back-to-back.

Speaking at the time, a spokesperson for Facebook — Instagram’s parent company — said that the test was meant to give users a more seamless experience.

However, it was reported that Facebook was believed to have instructed the photo and video-sharing platform to serve users ‘roughly double’ the amount of ads to bolster revenue.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk