A new report by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of students receiving unconditional offers to study in the UK.
In fact, an applicant in 2017 is a significant 19 times more likely to receive an unconditional offer than they would have five years ago.
Growth of unconditional offers is staggering. The number offered by unis has increased by 1,700 percent since 2014. https://t.co/uiipdhQR3r
— Harry Yorke (@HarryYorke1) December 14, 2017
UCAS is a service based in the UK that processes applications for all British universities.
They release a report every year that outlines the number of applicants from each region, an analysis of subject intake and the number of offers increased, among others. Their data for applicants’ offers is pulled mainly from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As students hoping to study in the UK have to apply early, they use their predicted grades as indication of their final results.
If you've already sent your UCAS application, check what happens next in this handy flowchart pic.twitter.com/7BO9y74fKv
— UCAS Online (@ucas_online) December 10, 2017
An unconditional offer therefore means your university of choice is willing to take you in based on the grades you have been predicted, regardless of the final exams.
Such an offer was once a rarity among school leavers but as the UCAS report revealed, universities appear to be handing them out more often than they should.
In 2017, there were a total 51,615 unconditional offers, compared to the 36,825 given in 2016. This represents a 40 percent increase of offers only in the space of a year.
However, looking back to five years ago, there were only 2,605 unconditional offers in total.
Not only has the number of unconditional offers increased, so has the proportion to all other offers made to prospective students. This year, 5.3 percent of all offers made were classed as unconditional.
40% increase in number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-olds in England, Wales & NI; more than 1 in 6 now get one, @ucas_online show. Is it deterring students from trying hardest in exams? https://t.co/Q9qU9QV5Do
— Chris Havergal (@CHavergalTHE) December 14, 2017
A spokesperson for the UK Department of Education said in The Telegraph: “We are closely monitoring the number of unconditional offers made each year and what, if any, impact they might have on student outcomes.”
A worry among Members of Parliament and other academics is that these offers are not necessarily being given to the brightest students. This is seen by the fact that the most common predicted grade to receive an unconditional offer was the equivalent to BBB in A-Levels (22.6 percent), compared to only 4.6 percent of applicants with the predicted grade of A*A*A*.
As UCAS notes, some subjects are dependent on other factors, such as a portfolio of the student’s best work, and may not need the applicant’s final grade in order to make a decision.
Regardless, this does not explain the rapid rise in unconditional offers in comparison to the year before.
One of the reasons behind the spike has been attributed to the increase in fees, which has reached £9,250 (US$12,400) per year for EU nationals.
Speaking to the The Telegraph, Buckingham University’s head of education Prof Allen Smithers stated:
“If they are going to resort to just handing out places, not on potential but desire to maximise income, they risk jeopardising the standards they are known for around the world.”
This year also saw the highest number of candidates receiving five out of five offers, conditional or unconditional, with 808,500 students managing to secure a place in all universities that they applied for.