university, unconditional offers

Should universities stop making unconditional offers to undergraduate students?

Last year over 87,000 university applicants received at least one unconditional offer, which is over a 1/3. Including me.

Seconds after I noticed that my UCAS Track had been updated, I accepted my offer, no questions asked. But was this the right decision?

When applying for university everyone is dreaming of unconditional offers. Not only do they relieve the stress that comes hand in hand with A-Levels, they mean less revision right? Wrong. This is something that I learnt the hard way.

Having been predicted straight A’s at A-Level and having the world’s strictest parents, I felt a lot of pressure leading up to my exams. Before I received my unconditional offer to study English BA at Nottingham Trent University, I spent every free moment I had revising. Praying for the opportunity to study what I loved at university level. So, once I opened that email stating that I was guaranteed a place at Nottingham Trent, I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. I stopped revising and I started celebrating.

Celebrating… until results day, when I opened that all important brown envelope to see a B and two C’s. Expecting 3 A’s on the page, I was devastated. But can I really blame my unconditional offer for this?

In 2018, 75% of students who (like me) had accepted unconditional offers did not achieve the grades they had been predicted by their college/sixth form. As a result of this, universities around the UK are questioning these offers that they are handing out. But what can be done to lower this percentage?

The University of Nottingham have recently announced that as of September 2019, they will cease making unconditional offers to undergraduate students. This decision came from the concern that once a student has received an unconditional offer, they instantly lose the motivation to work for their final exams. This leaves them ‘[unprepared] for the challenge of studying in Nottingham’.

Have unconditional offers become ‘unnecessary’ then?

Despite popular belief, receiving an unconditional offer doesn’t always mean you are a top performing candidate, it doesn’t always mean that the university are desperate to have you on their course. Often, they are given out to avoid empty spaces, Stella Barnes, Higher Education Advisor agreed, saying that ‘most unconditional offers have been seen by students as being a form of “bribe” in exchange for accepting the offer firmly.’

As there is an obvious link between unconditional offers and students under-performing, are universities being selfish by offering them if they only benefit themselves? Are they jeopardising the results of their future candidates? Who is to blame for this poor performance?

Interestingly, the Office for Students have warned universities around the UK that improper use of these offers could be a breach of consumer protection law.

But would it just be easier to, along with the University of Nottingham, say goodbye to unconditionals for good?

By Emily Braeger

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