Top private schools are increasingly worried that unconditional offers are being handed out by universities too effortlessly. Heads believe that A level students in receipt of this offer may be tempted to “take their foot off the gas” according to The Guardian.
Out of 950,000 offers made this year, 7% were unconditional, figures from UCAS (university applications administrator10 shows. A fifth of the 250,000 applicants to English universities received at least one unconditional offer.
The unconditional offer allows pupils a guaranteed place at their chosen university, regardless of their A level grades. With seemingly nothing further to work towards, pupils feel a reduction in pressure. Having said that, there is little evidence to suggest that pupils with unconditional offers gained disappointing grades. According to figures from UCAS, this year saw a 3% reduction in the amount of university applicants. This decline is responsible for fuelling employers’ motivation to increasingly take candidates’ A level grades into consideration. University may only be for three years, but grades stay with you for life.
‘Congratulations, you have received an unconditional offer.’ Upon hearing a university of your choice explicitly wants you, you rush to press the ‘Firm’ button. Amidst an influx of endorphins, seemingly forgetting about the other four institutions you spent hours deciding whether to apply to. In any case, this button not only promises you a space but in symbiotic fashion, also guarantees the university that one more undergraduate position is to be filled.
Unconditional offers are not typically distributed by the top twenty four universities. Compiled due to their research- intensive nature, members form ‘The Russell Group’. The removal of government caps on funding undergraduate numbers has generated greater competition between universities causing them to unconditionally accept more candidates as well. Vice chancellors believe the nature of the offer manifests security for both the pupil and university. Offering peace of mind, it allows students to prepare for accommodation well in advance.
Universities reassuringly say that these offers are only given to the top candidates. Are the best candidates being short changed though? Predicted grades of A*BB, Ashely Ford received an unconditional offer from Plymouth to study economics, a course only requiring BBC. Although Ford is likely to attain her predicted grades, she told the Guardian, “I absolutely definitely want to go to Plymouth… even if I do much better I’m sticking with them.”
Students should be warned, there is no need to settle for the unconditional offer even though the University has happily settled for you. They would be lucky to have you, as Nick Hillman director of the Higher Education Policy Institute reminds it is a “buyer’s market.” Ensuring the informed choice surrounding which university they should choose remains in attainable reach, pupils are encouraged to work to achieve the results they are capable of, “it is one year of your life and the decision could affect your entire future’’ says Lynse Hopkins, Head of Admissions at Sheffield University.