A dozen ‘influencers’ were paid to persuade A-level students to enrol at a university despite many of them having no genuine connection to the institution, bosses have admitted.
The life-style, fashion and travel influencers promoted Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge on Instagram in the weeks leading up to this year's A Level results.
Many of the posts, that were shared on A Level results day, carried captions that gushed about how important their time at university was.
The posts were shared for any students who did not get the grades for their first choice of university, and had to go through clearing.
However many of those promoting Anglia Ruskin did not actually study at the university.
Influencers who promoted the university included travel and lifestyle blogger Mariana Alonso, who has a following of 82,800 users, and graduated seven years ago as an engineer from Faculdades Integradas de Cataguases, in Brazil.
And 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.
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".
She told Vice: "For me personally, it 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 who spend 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."
Watch: Twenty-nine tonnes of carrots dumped outside London university