Offers which guarantee applicants higher education places if they make the offer their first (firm) choice are set to decline, according to a UCAS forecast.
Posted Thu 30 January 2020 - 00:01

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘The university and college-level data we are releasing today from 2019 provides a more detailed look at the increase in the number of conditional unconditional offers. However, early indications point very strongly to a behaviour change in 2020. We forecast as many as 75% of universities and colleges which made conditional unconditional offers in the 2019 cycle will no longer make these in 2020.

‘Whilst we predict a fall in these types of offers, we will likely see universities and colleges deploy other offer-making strategies, including direct unconditionals, in this competitive market.

‘We are basing our forecast on conditional unconditional offers on three factors. Some universities and colleges have publicly said they no longer plan to make such offers, and this is repeated in statements included in our university and college-level data released today. Secondly, we monitor offer-making through the year and our early modelling shows the tide is turning. Finally, our analysis of applicant decisions in the 2019 cycle shows they were only marginally more likely to choose a conditional unconditional offer as their firm choice.

‘We make this forecast because there is a lot of public debate on these types of offers, based on our data and insights. We will be able to share our analysis of changes in offer-making trends at the end of the 2020 cycle, when we have the full picture.'

Today, UCAS is releasing more insight and analysis in its End of Cycle Report 2019, which includes:

  • two chapters on ‘Unconditional offer-making by provider group’ and ‘Equality in England’. Both chapters, with accompanying data, are available here
  • university and college-level data about final application and acceptance figures for the 2019 cycle, including analysis by country, sex, background, and unconditional offer-making, with recent years for comparison. Whilst UCAS does not comment on individual organisations, its data enables the sector and beyond to contextualise trends


UCAS Press Office

01242 545 469


Notes for editors

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent 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 370 universities and colleges across the UK.

View all published 2019 end of cycle analysis.


In Scotland, there is a substantial section of higher education that is not included in UCAS' figures. This is mostly full-time higher education, provided in further education colleges, which represents around one third of young, full-time undergraduate study in Scotland – this proportion varies by geography and background within Scotland. Accordingly, figures on applications, and application rates in Scotland, reflect only those applying for full-time undergraduate study through UCAS.


  • Conditional unconditional offer – offers which are conditional at the point of offer, and adjusted by the provider from conditional to unconditional if selected as an applicant’s firm choice. These are identified in the admissions system through free text fields that providers can use to communicate any additional information to applicants.
  • Direct unconditional offer – offers which are unconditional at the point of offer.
  • Other unconditional offer – offers which are conditional at the point of offer and become unconditional before 30 June – the final date on which main scheme applications can be submitted, but which cannot be identified as conditional unconditional.

The total of these types of offers are referred to as offers with an unconditional component.

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