A third of 18 year olds now get ‘unconditional offers’ – what’s the problem?

What should we make of the recent UCAS  release that a third of 18 year olds now downloadreceive unconditional offers for university places?

School and college representatives  are right to argue that this is a reflection of an  ‘out of control’ market based higher education system where universities  have to  chase students or face financial ruin, something made worse by the removal of ‘capping’.  But some of their comments about the effects on students are less straightforward.

While UCAS  also provides evidence that those  enjoying the luxury of an unconditional offer are likely to miss their target grades, in complaining about students  ‘easing  down’ ‘ taking their foot off the gas’  or even  ‘stop coming to school at all’ (!) headteachers and college principals are as much  concerned about the effect on league table scores and their own reputations,  as they are youngsters  future commitment to study being undermined.  UCAS itself, takes a more somber view.

Unconditional offers are also made to support widening participation, and to address the health and well being needs of some students. Many students responding to UCAS’ survey reported a reduction in stress knowing they had a confirmed place….

unconditional offers are made by universities and colleges that are satisfied applicants have demonstrated sufficient ability and potential to succeed on their chosen course. This may include consideration of exam results, and outcomes from interviews or auditions. For example, 18 per cent of offers made to applicants for creative arts courses are unconditional, where more emphasis could be placed on a strong portfolio (Press release 28/11/18.

If we also consider the many critiques  of schools becoming  ‘exam factories’ ,  teachers having to ‘teach to test’ and spending more time on exam technique than on the intellectual development of their charges,  then it doesn’t take much to recognise  that the current ‘dog eat dog’ system can’t be justified. Mass participation in HE is a good thing. To make university entrance a right rather than dependent on academic excellence, a new system of admission is required. .

4 thoughts on “A third of 18 year olds now get ‘unconditional offers’ – what’s the problem?

  1. ‘To make uni entry an entitlement’ to be exact (see Book Review: Who are universities for?’ in ‘Books’.

  2. Universities have for so so long been bastions of elitism. Students are forced to forgo so much else just to be considered for admission. In light of this, unconditional admission does not seem a bad move. Thanks for the post. It raises very important ethical and sociopoltical questions.


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