Revealed: Good grades are no longer a must for universities with ten now dishing out more than half of their offers unconditionally
- University of Suffolk made the most unconditional offers at 83 per cent
- York St John and Bolton both made more than 75 per cent of offers unconditional
- Recent research has shown applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A Level results by two or more grades
Ten universities now dish out more than half of their offers of places ‘unconditionally’, removing the incentive for students to work hard in their A-levels.
New data from admissions body Ucas reveals many universities are making large numbers of unconditional offers – guaranteed places which are not reliant on exam results.
The students accepting these offers are promised a place on a course even if they go on to do badly in their A-levels.
Recent research has shown applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted grades by two or more grades.
Traditionally, students would be offered a conditional place, which would only be secured if they achieved the right grades.
The highest proportion was at the University of Suffolk, pictured, which had 83 per cent unconditional offers.
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The Ucas data on offers to 18-year-olds in 2018, released today, shows 50 universities made at least 10 per cent of their offers unconditionally.
Of those, 22 made such offers to at least 30 per cent, and 10 made them to at least 50 per cent.
The highest proportion was at the University of Suffolk, which had 83 per cent unconditional offers.
It was followed by York St John, with 78 per cent, and then Bolton, which had 75 per cent.
Meanwhile, Roehampton had 68 per cent; Southampton Solent had 58 per cent; Bishop Grosseteste had 56 per cent and Gloucestershire had 56 per cent.
The other universities were Northampton, Lincoln and Plymouth Marjon.
Some of these universities specialise in niche subjects such as art and health, which are heavily reliant on portfolios or interviews and do not necessarily require good exam grades.
However, many of them also offer mainstream courses in subjects such as English and history.
Happy students: But recent research has shown applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A Level results by two or more grades
The data prompted the Office for Students (OfS) to warn universities they must mend their ways.
Chief executive Nicola Dandridge said: ‘There are some good reasons why universities might make unconditional offers.
‘However, for a number of universities this data will make uncomfortable reading – where they cannot justify the offers they make they should reconsider their approach.’ Among the universities making more than 10 per cent unconditional offers were two elite institutions of the Russell Group – Nottingham and Birmingham.
Yesterday, Nottingham announced it would no longer make such offers from this year onwards, following a backlash over the past year.
Registrar Dr Paul Greatrix said of the move: ‘We want everyone to be fully confident that they are admitted purely on their merits and potential.’ However, the majority of those favouring unconditional offers were non-elite, ‘low tariff’ universities, which tend to admit lower-performing students.
Experts have speculated in the past they may be resorting to these measures to get ‘bums on seats’ if they are less popular and fewer pupils are competing to gain entry.
The data released yesterday also showed universities in England were responsible for most of the unconditional offer-making, followed by Wales.
It was very uncommon in Scotland, partly because universities do not have to compete for students in the same way, as student numbers are capped and tuition is free.
Around half of all unconditional offers had a proviso attached to them – usually that the student had to list the university as their first choice on their Ucas form.
When contacted for comment, the University of Suffolk said unconditional offers helped it focus on ‘widening participation’ as it took in the students’ ‘potential to succeed’ in addition to predicted grades.
It said it had ‘not adversely affected our applicant profile’ in terms of A-level grades.
Meanwhile, Northampton said it ‘does not offer an unconditional place in exchange for an applicant making a decision on the spot’ and ‘explains to all applicants who receive an unconditional offer that their pre-university grades are likely to impact their future career.’ Lincoln said those who receive unconditional offers ‘outperform their peers’, while Plymouth Marjon and Bolton said they had discontinued unconditional offers for 2019.
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