University to stop giving out unconditional offers

A university in London has said it will stop making unconditional offers to prospective students in order to “maintain standards”.

St Mary’s University in Twickenham announced the move after discovering that a number of students who had been given an unconditional offer did not achieve their expected grades.

It comes following mounting criticism of the practice by education chiefs – with recent figures revealing the number of unconditional offers given to students has soared in recent years.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has called the rise “irresponsible” and warned handing them out to put “bums on seats” undermined the credibility of the university system.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has criticised the practice of giving unconditional offers (Conservative Party Handout/PA)

John Brewer, pro vice-chancellor for St Mary’s University, said the institution was “determined to maintain standards of entry” and had decided to withdraw unconditional offers for 2018/19.

He said: “It was clear to us that a number of students who enrolled with us after an unconditional offer was made didn’t meet the grades they expected and this didn’t merit the investment we made into that particular part of our recruitment programme.”

He added: “By listening to the views of schools, teachers, our own staff and students, we believe that with the evidence that has been available to us that we’ve made the right decision.”

Nearly 70,000 unconditional offers were made to 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2018, up from less than 3,000 just five years ago.

Overall, 22.9% of 18-year-old university applicants – some 58,385 in total – from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, received at least one unconditional offer this year.

An unconditional offer means a student has a place on a degree course secured, regardless of the grades they achieve in their A-levels or other qualifications.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has urged universities to stop the practice, arguing that such offers can lead to students making less effort in their A-levels, which could damage their job prospects later on.

University, 6th FormWeb editor