Similar groups were previously discovered in Groningen and Delft. The groups and surreptitious advertising are causing confusion and irritation among students. After EM questioned the company, the logos of the groups were quietly changed on Tuesday.

The company’s WhatsApp groups ‘compete’ with regular WhatsApp groups for programmes that have been created by students themselves. The commercial groups have been set up by students who are paid by or work for AthenaStudies. For fellow students, this distinction is not always clear.

No permission

Advertisements in the WhatsApp groups with the Erasmus School of Law logo. Image credit: Elmer Smaling

A spokesperson for the university emphasises that the logos are protected by copyright. “EUR has not granted permission to AthenaStudies for this use. We are exploring the legal measures we can take against this use and the WhatsApp groups.”

The groups serve as a forum for students, for example to discuss upcoming exams or assignments. But the company is also using the groups to promote its own services. Students will share an advertisement for the company, for instance, or send a message saying there are still ‘a few places’ available in a course. Surreptitious advertising also occurs. Students will say that they’ve greatly benefited from a course, for example, without it being clear that they are being paid by AthenaStudies.

Do you know more about how AthenaStudies operates? Or are you also bothered by advertising from companies in app groups or in email marketing to students? Or do you work for one of these companies and want to tell (anonymously) about the way they work? Send an e-mail to [email protected].

Also in Canvas

The logo of the WhatsApp groups was changed on Tuesday Image credit: Elmer Smaling

In other WhatsApp groups that have not been set up by the company, students also occasionally share advertisements for AthenaStudies, to the aggravation of administrators and in violation of the group rules. Students who work for the company are also posting advertisements on Canvas, the software platform where students can access their course materials from the university. The university is considering taking legal action against this as well.

AthenaStudies is a company that offers tutoring to students and sells summaries of courses. A 10-hour crash course in Administrative Law, for example, costs €109. The company is active at nearly all faculties. EM has only discovered groups for students at the Erasmus School of Law. The company is not responding to EM’s questions as to whether other groups are running and why it is using the university’s logos.