Do unconditional offers from universities stop students doing as well as they should in exams? Or are they an easy way of filling expensive places?
New data from UCAS, the university clearing and admissions service, reveals the number of unconditional offers has rocketed over the last five years .
This year just over seven percent of all offers were unconditional, 67,915 compared to 2,985 in 2013.
In the UK 18 year olds have to apply to university before they have taken their final exams so receive offers pending results.
When universities make an offer, it can either be conditional or unconditional. Conditional offers usually specify the grades a student needs to achieve in their A levels, BTECs, or other relevant qualifications, to be accepted onto a course. Unconditional offers don’t have any further academic requirements the student needs to meet.
It is the first time that Ucas has analysed offer-making patterns during an application cycle and says its analysis is part of its ongoing commitments to “ensure transparency throughout the admissions process”.
The data comes as the cap on the number of students a university can admit has been lifted and the population of 18-year-olds is falling.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has branded the practice “ Completely irresponsible to students.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “This huge increase in unconditional offers is driven by competition between universities and is not in the best interests of students.
“It can lead to students making less effort in their A-levels because their place is assured.”
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt want to see change inthe way places are allocated and adds: “ The proliferation of unconditional offers is detrimental to the interests of students and it is time the UK joined the rest of the world in basing university offers on actual achievements instead of on guesswork.”
In Central Lancashire only Lancaster currently makes unconditional offers.
A spokesman says: “Lancaster makes a small number of unconditional offers each year to applicants who have the strongest academic profiles. As the strength of our applicant group has grown, the number of applicants eligible for the scheme has risen. Our unconditional offers are linked to an excellence scholarship to encourage applicants to continue strive for the best possible grades in their exams.”