Ben HaywardJuly 29th
2019

The proportion of university applicants being offered a university place regardless of their exam grades has risen to nearly two in five despite the government attempting to crackdown on the practice.

New Ucas figures show that 38% of 18-year-old applicants from England, Northern Ireland and Wales received an offer with an unconditional element in 2019, compared to 34% in 2018 - and just 1% in 2013.

This huge rise has raised fears that standards could drop at universities as students become demotivated at school with no requirement to achieve highly.

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In April, then education secretary Damian Hinds, wrote to the worst-offending universities urging them to stamp out ‘pressure-selling tactics’ and strongly condemned the use of ‘conditional unconditional offers’ in which a student is guaranteed a place at an institution as long as they make it their first choice, but regardless of what grades they achieve.

But it seems the warning shave fallen on deaf ears, as the latest Ucas figures show the number of school leavers receiving a ‘conditional unconditional’ has risen to 25%, up from 20% in 2018.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “The use of unconditional offers remains a complex issue and continues to evolve.

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“We look forward to working with the Office for Students and Universities UK (UUK) on their respective upcoming admissions practice reviews, to deliver meaningful recommendations.”

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students (OfS), said: “It is concerning to see a further increase in the rate of ‘unconditional’ offers made which actually come with strings attached.”

“The danger of these conditional unconditional offers is that students feel pressurised to accept a place on a course which might not turn out to be their best option.”

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A Department for Education spokesperson said: “What sets the UK’s world-leading universities apart is our relentless focus on quality and this must be protected.

“There is a place for unconditional offers, however this data highlights the continued rise in their use and we know some students who accept unconditional offers can be more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades.

“Many institutions are already taking steps to address the rise in unconditional offers and we hope these efforts continue, with the figures showing a different picture next year.”

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