Unconditional offers: improving well-being or encouraging laziness?

unconditional offers
Does results day even matter to those students who have their university place regardless of grades? Source: Shutterstock.com

With a steep rise in unconditional offers in the United Kingdom, concerns were raised about students “sitting back and twiddling their thumbs“. But is this the reality?

In response to the trend, headteacher Bernard Trafford wrote for Tes on how students need “more unconditional offers from universities, not fewer”.

According to Trafford: “Ucas [the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service] reckons that, with no grade target, students exert less effort, underperform at A-level and are unattractive to future employers.” However, he claimed this simply is not the case.

Trafford recognised the negative impact exams can have on students’ mental health. He concluded, therefore, that unconditional offers have a positive impact on students’ well-being.


Lois Warner, a Nottingham Trent student, definitely felt the benefits to her mental and physical health when she received her unconditional offer.

“Before receiving and accepting the unconditional, I was feeling so overwhelmed with stress,” Warner told Study International. “It really effected my mental health in some aspects.”

“But after accepting it, I definitely felt less worried about how I did in my exams – although I still wanted to do well for personal achievement – because I knew I had a place secured.”

Warner claimed the ease in pressure was hugely beneficial to her. “I don’t react very well with stress, and it affects my mental and physical health so for me it was good to lower this,” she said.

Many students feel more favourable toward a university when they receive an unconditional offer

“I was definitely more excited to receive the unconditional [offer] compared to the conditional ones,” student Eva Smith told Study International.

“For some reason, I felt like maybe they wanted me to come there more and they liked my work more when I showed them my portfolio.”

Sophia Rutter, who will begin her university studies in September, agreed.

“I felt wanted by the university,” Rutter told Study International. 


“It has made me feel more excited for university. I’m going somewhere that really wants me, because they gave me an unconditional offer.”

Tilly Bethell received two unconditional offers. While she didn’t select either for her top-choice university, she found great comfort in selecting one as her insurance choice, in case she missed out on the grades.

“It definitely made me feel secure coming up to my final exams,” Bethell told Study International. “I knew I was into either Bristol or Cardiff.”

It seems universities may be tactically offering students unconditional offers in order to snatch them from competitors.

Smith explained she felt proud and happy when she received her unconditional offer but when she got to university she found “about half of the class got unconditional offers, even though I was told only a couple were nominated for them”.

She claimed this made her feel “pretty deflated after finding that out”.

Caitlin Powell also received an unconditional offer. “It was the first offer I had and I wanted to go there anyway so it put me off the others even more,” she told Study International.

Powell, unlike Rutter and Smith, felt she did work slightly less hard when she received her unconditional offer. She said as long as she passed, her grades didn’t matter.

The offer “definitely came at a time when I really needed it to,” she said. “It meant I didn’t panic unnecessarily about work, and, while I still cared, I didn’t feel the stress of having to wait on my grades or hear back from other unis about their offers.”

Warner agreed. “I think it definitely made me work less hard, which is bad to say, but I definitely remember thinking on some days when I wasn’t motivated or couldn’t be bothered to revise that it doesn’t really matter because I already had a place,” she said.

“But at the same time I did try to forget that I had an unconditional and tried to treat it as a conditional offer to make myself work.”

However, she admitted: “I think that if I had a conditional instead, I would have worked harder and got better grades than I did.”

While some students could naturally become complacent, equally many may find the emotional pressure tied to their grades somewhat alleviated. This will make for happier, healthier students. And that is nothing to complain about.

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