Students are increasingly likely to be made an unconditional offer for a place on an undergraduate course, before they have completed their qualifications at school or college.
Posted Thu 26 July 2018 - 00:01

The number of unconditional offers made to 18 year old students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales has risen over the past five years – from 2,985 in 2013, to 67,915 in 2018. This year, 7.1 per cent of offers made to these students were unconditional, continuing the recent trend of annual increases.

22.9 per cent (58,385) of these students received at least one unconditional offer – a rise of 29 per cent on 2017.  

This is the first time UCAS has analysed offer-making patterns during an application cycle (267.72 KB), and is part of our ongoing commitments to ensure transparency throughout the admissions process. This analysis considers 18 year old students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, as they typically apply with their qualification results pending.

When universities make an offer, it can either be conditional or unconditional. Conditional offers usually specify the grades a student needs to achieve in their A levels, BTECs, or any other relevant qualification, to be accepted onto a course. Unconditional offers don’t have any further academic requirements the student needs to meet.

Unconditional offers have always been a part of the admissions process and are used in a variety of circumstances, including:

  • to mature students who have already achieved their qualifications to meet entry criteria
  • to those applying for creative arts courses, after submitting a portfolio, or following a successful interview or audition. Artistic flair is likely to be viewed as a better indication of potential than traditional grades
  • to reduce the stress some students may feel during the high pressure exam period, supporting students with mental health difficulties
  • as one of the many different approaches universities use to attract and retain interest from students in a competitive marketplace

Helen Thorne, UCAS' Director of External Relations, said: ‘Students should take the time to carefully think about all their options fully before accepting an unconditional offer. Information and advice on the UCAS website highlights the key points students need to think about before accepting any offer.

‘While unconditional offers are made for a number of reasons, we believe that universities should always emphasise to students the importance of completing their studies to the best of their abilities. This will help make sure they’re well prepared for their degree course, and for future employment.

‘Later this year, we’ll be publishing more detailed analysis of offer-making, including any impact on students’ attainment.’


UCAS Press Office contact details


Phone: 01242 545 469

Notes to editors

Download the full report (267.72 KB)

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses, at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.


In Scotland, a substantial proportion of students aged 18 who apply through UCAS Undergraduate, have already attained SQA Highers and met the academic requirements to enter higher education. Therefore, students from Scotland are not included in this analysis.

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