Universities set to clamp down on unconditional offers

In a previous article, Concrete revealed that less than half of UEA students actually meet their offer. Now, research from the Office for Students (OfS) and UCAS shows that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are five percent more likely to miss their predicted grades by two grades or more than those who accept a conditional offer.  

The research comes as part of a new statement by OfS to crack down on ‘so-called pressure selling tactics [by Universities that] could be a potential breach of consumer protection law’. OfS have noted a significant increase in unconditional offers to students over the past few years that they say have often ‘applied psychological pressure, or created an impression of urgency in decision making’, which can interfere with the ‘opportunity and freedom to make an informed choice’. OfS are currently monitoring the situation and have stated that they will intervene where necessary. 

The 2018 End of Cycle Report published by UCAS shows a steep increase in the percentage of unconditional offers being made, from 0.4 percent in 2013 to 7.1 percent in 2018. Almost a quarter of 2018 applicants received at least one unconditional offer. This could highlight an inconsistency across institutions as different universities attempt to fill places.

Fiona Nugent, a third year student in Education, thinks that ‘it takes a lot of pressure off young people at a very stressful time [but] should be reserved for non-traditional students who might have more pressure on them than other students when applying to university.’

Others such as Alex Hiepko, a second year Psychology student, adds that ‘receiving an unconditional would make you less inclined to work towards your target grades, whereas with a conditional you are actually driven to achieve those grades, and it reflects well on you when you do.’

The future of unconditional offers remains unclear. With a new statement by the University of Nottingham confirming it will cease to award unconditional offers from this September, and increased scrutiny from the Office for Students, there may be further significant decreases to come. 

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Jake Goddard

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January 2022
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