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Uni applicants want Gov regulation over unconditional offers – New Research Reveals

University applicants support calls for Government regulation over unconditional offers.

Addressing rise of unconditional offers is a must, says AoC

david hughes 100 x100In response to today’s (25 Jan) new report from the Office for Students (OfS) on the rise of unconditional offers, David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

“It is pleasing that UCAS has started to analyse the impact of unconditional offers and that OfS are taking this seriously.

“We have been increasingly concerned about the impact unconditional offers have on student motivation and achievement. The increase in numbers over the last few years cannot be explained away simply as attempts to widen participation. There are better ways to achieve that, with contextualised offers, for instance.

“Colleges and schools are dealing with the unintended consequence of the practice as students worry less about their grades and so take their foot off the gas. The OfS consultation will need to address potential solutions to drastically reduce or even rule-out this practice.”

Ahead of next week’s UCAS end of cycle report on university applications, The Student Room reveals what current university applicants really think of unconditional offers.

Amongst growing political concern over rising numbers of unconditional offers being made by universities, university applicants are supporting calls for the Government to regulate how universities make these decisions, according to new research released today by The Student Room (TSR). Almost half (46%) of prospective university students are asking for more government control over the number of offers given out.

The research* was conducted by TSR Insight, the new research division of TSR – UK’s largest online student community – to find out how current university applicants feel about the rising numbers of unconditional offers.

While most university applicants (70%) would be happy to receive an unconditional offer, they believe they should only be used selectively, based on merit or individual circumstances.

However, the over-use of unconditional offers is likely to cause damage to universities’ brand and reputation. More than half of respondents (59%) said their opinion of a university’s reputation would be quite or extremely negative if they found out that university made a lot of unconditional offers.

Also, the use of ‘conditional unconditional offers’ (where the offer is only unconditional if the applicant selects the university as firm choice) was also negatively viewed. Almost half (47%) of respondents said they would feel negatively about a university which made them an offer like this versus just 20% who would feel positive about it.

While more than half of prospective student respondents said they were unlikely to change their university decisions, 27% said receiving an unconditional offer was likely to make them choose that university over one they really wanted to go to.

The applying to uni journey can be a highly vulnerable time for young adults who are making a huge life decision feeling a lot of pressure to get it right. It’s extremely worrying that unconditional offers are influencing applicants to re-think their choice and ultimately make the wrong decision for them based on the fear that they won’t achieve their desired grades.

Furthermore, applicants believe unconditional offers could have a negative impact on their motivation to study in school or college. Concerningly, 39% said they would feel less motivated to revise for their exams after accepting an unconditional offer, which could negatively impact A level attainment in summer 2019 .

Any unconditional offer made needs to be done so with full integrity and transparency. Our survey suggests students are becoming more savvy, and are more aware of how unconditional offers may underpin a university’s recruitment strategy. If applicants find out that a university is handing out these types of offers too widely this may devalue their brand and reputation long-term.

Hannah Morrish, Higher Education Lead at The Student Room

*The Student Room surveyed 557 prospective university students  aged 17 – 18 in year 13 in school or college studying A levels, who are currently in the university recruitment process planning to begin a full-time undergraduate degree in September 2019. The survey was live between the 9th of January and 21st of January.

Comments from university applicants

“I think they can prey on the insecurities of strong students who could do better but are scared of missing a conditional offer”

“Personally, I believe they are handed out too freely – 4/5 of my offers state that they will be unconditional if I put them as my firm, which makes me believe that the universities do not actually care if I get the grade, instead, they just care about how many places that they fill, and want to guarantee as many as possible with the appeal of an unconditional offer.”

About The Student Room: Founded in 2001, The Student Room is the world’s largest online student community and the UK’s no.1 education website according to ComScore data. The Student Room has over 3 million registered members, primarily aged between 14-24 and attracts over 8 million visitors a month. It provides advice on studying, educational career choice and lifestyle issues. The Student Room works directly with most UK universities as well as a wide range of leading brands and companies. 24/7 honest, realistic advice and support. It offers students a peer-to-peer forum platform, in conjunction with advice articles and online tools to support them in study help and university choice. It also provides its B2B clients a range of advertising, database marketing and content services.    

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