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Unconditional offers to students at a record high

Unconditional offers to university and higher education applicants have hit a record high, with one in four now receiving them, figures show.(stock photo)
Unconditional offers to university and higher education applicants have hit a record high, with one in four now receiving them, figures show.(stock photo)

By Lewis Pennock

Unconditional offers to university and higher education applicants have hit a record high, with one in four now receiving them, figures show.

Some 63,190 applicants were given an unconditional offer in the 2019 cycle, according to analysis by Ucas, which handles applications.

As a proportion, the figure marks a 2% increase on last year, which also set a record, when 58,385 prospective students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales were given the offers.

Some critics say the method can cause students to take their foot off the gas as they approach A-levels and other exams.

The latest study, published in a Ucas report yesterday and focusing on 18-year-old applicants, found 7.8% (75,845) of all offers were unconditional, compared with just 0.4% in 2013.

A "substantial" rise was also seen in controversial "conditional unconditional" offers, which are made conditional if the applicant makes the university or institution their firm choice.

This year, these were given to 25% (63,830) of applicants, compared with 20% (52,145) last year.

Applicants from the most disadvantaged areas were 50% more likely to receive an unconditional offer than applicants from the most advantaged areas, the report added.

Responding to the report, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: "What sets the UK's world-leading universities apart is our relentless focus on quality and this must be protected.

"There is a place for unconditional offers.

"However, this data highlights the continued rise in their use and we know some students who accept unconditional offers can be more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades.

"We also have particular concerns about the use of conditional unconditional offers, which can potentially pressure students into accepting a place which may not be the best option for them."

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