StudentCrowd exists to help students make the best decisions through their higher education journey. We have developed comprehensive community guidelines, alongside a robust moderation support system, to ensure reviews are both useful and fair.
StudentCrowd has two guiding principles when we make decisions on review moderation:
1 - Upholding the student voice
2 - Maintaining review authenticity
Both of these principles support the credibility of the StudentCrowd platform as a space for the authentic student voice to be seen and heard. If we are perceived to censor the student voice we will soon become irrelevant. Therefore, ensuring the integrity of reviews on the platform is our number one concern.
Based on our experience, there are three main types of reviews which can impact the integrity of the platform:
Fake reviews: non-students submitting reviews to the site.
Incentivised reviews: as a means for providers to game the system.
Malice reviews: this can include false information, review spamming etc.
We have developed our systems over the last 6 years to ensure our reviews are authentic, as well as addressing manipulations of site content. We will continue to develop the platform to ensure it is a space where students can share their experiences of university freely and honestly.
StudentCrowd does not assess every review left on the platform. Like many platforms of our kind, we rely on the StudentCrowd Community to help moderate content.
Because we believe reviews should be a fair and authentic reflection of an individuals experience we are also committed to not fact-checking claims made in reviews, however, if a provider offers evidence that a review is factually incorrect we are committed to addressing that directly with the reviewer and, in extreme cases where agreement cannot be found, we will remove the review.
We know that not all providers will like all the content written about them on our site.
However, that in itself isn’t grounds for a review to be removed, and in the long term, heavy-handed moderation can have very damaging consequences. Negative reviews can also have a number of benefits to an organisation if providers choose to actively engage in the review and response process.
Overview of Current Process
We take a two-pronged approach when it comes to checking the reviewer and review content.
Proactive Review Checking
1 - Verification of a real UK student
★ Only users who have an ac.uk email account are able to submit a review through our platform. We also enable email accounts from e.g. private providers that still have a fixed suffix to their email such as <individual-name>@<provider-name>.com. In this way readers know that only individuals with a real university email account have left a review.
★ A reviewer types their email address into the email address field on our review form. If it does not comply with our email format the review will not be posted on the site.
★ We then send a verification email to the email address provided, requesting the reviewer to verify their account. Again, a review will not be posted on the site without the email account being verified.
2 - Reviewer Self-Check for Incentivised or Malice Reviews
★ Most commonly, incentivised or malice reviews are scored as 5 or 1 stars. When a review of this type is submitted, a pop-up will appear to prompt the reviewer to check they are happy with their scoring.
★ If the reviewer continues to submit a 5 or 1 star review, we then send a follow-up email asking them to indicate if they have been actively incentivised to leave a positive or negative review.
★ If a student reports they have been incentivised, we feed this into our StudentCrowd Score algorithm, which can impact a provider's overall score. Where there are extreme examples of incentivisation, we will follow this up with the provider directly and may suspend their account.
3 - Technical Screening Check
Our technological moderation system automatically blocks reviews that contain certain features for example:
★ Swear words or explicit language
★ Duplicate reviews
★ All Caps and HTML tag
A human moderator then checks all of these blocked reviews and makes a decision to reject them permanently or revert to displaying them after hashing out bad language if necessary.
4 - Periodic Client Profile Check
We review all client profiles on a periodic basis to identify any reviews that breach our guidelines and check for indications of incentivised reviews. This is a paid-for service only.
5 - Ad-hoc Internal Checks
Periodically, StudentCrowd staff also report any reviews they identify as breaching our guidelines. This may be initiated due to unusual behaviour that has been identified elsewhere on the site.
Reactive Review Checking
1 - Reviews reported by the StudentCrowd Community using the ‘report a review’ flag found on every review.
StudentCrowd relies on its community of reviewers and readers to support the review moderation process. Every review has a ‘report this review’ flag. This enables any user to report a review to the team.
Once a review has been reported, the system immediately removes it from view and pushes it back into the platform's admin system.
Flagged reviews are then assessed by the team with one of three outcomes:
★ No breach of guidelines - reinstate the review on the site.
★ Breach of guidelines - not reinstated, reviewer contacted to make them aware of the decision.
★ Unclear if the review has breached guidelines - sent to our internal review moderation team to make the final decision on reinstatement or removal. All decisions are documented and checked across the team on a regular basis.
2 - HE Providers reporting a review directly to the Customer Support Team
All providers can contact the team directly to report a review using the email@example.com email address. A complaint received via this route goes through the same investigation and decision-making process as a flagged review.
Decision outcomes and metrics are reported to the StudentCrowd Leadership Team on a monthly basis.