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Office for Students Bans ‘Conditional Unconditional’ University Offers in UK

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The Office for Students (OfS) has temporarily banned ‘conditional unconditional’ offers in English universities, due to concerns that the offer pressures students into accepting places at universities. 

Any universities making these offers could receive a fine of up to £500,000 per breach.

Conditional unconditional offers give students a place at the university, which is not dependent on their grades, with the caveat that students must put the university as their firm choice.

The ban on conditional unconditional offers will be in place until September 2021, so will cover admissions offers for the next two academic years.

High numbers of conditional unconditional offers

Approximately 30,000 conditional unconditional offers are thought to have been made to students this year in March, before the ban was announced. Students shouldn’t worry, however, as these offers will still stand.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of the OfS said: “Students can also be reassured that they should not expect to have any offers that they have already received withdrawn”.

She added: “Where there are good reasons for [students] to receive an unconditional or contextual offer in the future, there is no reason that this cannot go ahead.”

There has been a sharp rise in conditional unconditional offers in recent years. UCAS reported in December 2019 that over a quarter of 18-year-old applicants in the UK have received a conditional unconditional offer, despite fewer students accepting the offer.

Undue pressure on students

These offers are often given to students with the intent of discouraging students from attending other universities. 

The aim of this new regulation is to prevent the use of unconditional offers that may have negative consequences for students. The OfS said they put unnecessary pressure on students to accept offers they otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of the OfS said: “We have previously highlighted that unconditional offers which are conditional on students accepting a university or college as their first choice put pressure on students and distort their decision making.

“Widespread use of unconditional offers also risks destabilising the system.”

She adds: “This condition is designed to avoid instability during the current uncertainty, and to protect students and the higher education sector in these extraordinary circumstances”.

Impact on poorer students 

The new condition stops universities making contextual offers. These contextual offers are for students who may from underrepresented groups or lower income backgrounds, who might be offered lower entry requirements than other students. 

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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