Are UK universities irresponsibly dishing out unconditional offers?
What's the impact of "conditional unconditional offers"? Source: Shutterstock

When selecting your degree subject, you want to make a choice with a clear mind and strong goals.

Instead of rushing into decisions or hastily filling out your UCAS application form, you may wish to attend a few open days or flick through a handful of university brochures to confirm that you’re making the right choice.

That’s why the centralised application system UCAS has applicants’ best interests at heart.

Encouraging students to prepare for their university choices, UCAS upholds a fair admissions process for all.

However, the trusted student service has recently noticed an odd occurrence within the framework.

UCAS keeps a close watch over student welfare. Source: Shutterstock

As outlined in the organisation’s 2018 End of Cycle Report, “For the first time, UCAS has analysed ‘conditional unconditional’ offers, alongside standard unconditional offers. These are offers which are initially made by the university as conditional, then updated to unconditional if the offer is accepted as the student’s first (firm) choice.”

This sly tactic is frowned upon by UCAS, and no doubt other institutions and representatives who fear it has the potential to lead applicants down the wrong path.

By trading an unconditional offer (a confirmed place on the university course) for a first choice position, UK universities are using this technique as a tool for boosting ‘bums on seats’, also doubling as a vanity project to demonstrate the popularity of a partilcular course.

Is this a fair game to play?

The report also highlights that over 70 percent of students surveyed had a positive opinion of unconditional offers, with a majority (over 60 percent) claiming that receiving an unconditional offer had an impact on where they ultimately chose to study.

So if unconditional offers are being handed out left right and centre, students all over the world are being swayed by the promise of a secure place at a certain institution, overlooking crucial aspects like teaching quality, student support services, valuable opportunities and so on.

From an institutional perspective, perhaps admissions staff are concerned about the fleeting attention of today’s digitally-dependent youth, looking to grant a definite answer to eager applicants and ensure they follow through.

By leaving the application status as ‘conditional’ for too long, there’s a chance prospective students might lose interest and opt for the university that says yes straight away.

It’s also worth considering the implications of involvement with a highly competitive higher education marketplace.

Fighting for attention from applicants isn’t always easy, especially when there are hundreds of different versions of the same degree.

So, are universities solely to blame for the increase in unconditional offers?

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