UCAS’ 2018 End of Cycle Report shows 87,540 university applicants who are yet to complete their qualifications at school or college, have received an offer that could be considered unconditional.
Posted Thu 29 November 2018 - 00:01

This represents 34.4 per cent of 18 year old applicants from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and continues an annual upward trend that began in 2013.

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.

Over 70 per cent of students had a positive opinion of unconditional offers when surveyed by UCAS. Most students (over 60 per cent) said that receiving an unconditional offer had an impact on where they ultimately chose to study.

Unconditional offers are made by universities and colleges that are satisfied applicants have demonstrated sufficient ability and potential to succeed on their chosen course. This may include consideration of exam results, and outcomes from interviews or auditions. For example, 18 per cent of offers made to applicants for creative arts courses are unconditional, where more emphasis could be placed on a strong portfolio.

Unconditional offers are also made to support widening participation, and to address the health and wellbeing needs of some students. Many students responding to UCAS’ survey reported a reduction in stress knowing they had a confirmed place.

The report also reconfirms research published in 2016 which shows that students’ A level attainment is affected if they’ve accepted an unconditional offer. While most applicants, regardless of the type of offer they hold, miss out on their teacher’s A level predictions by two or more grades, 67 per cent of those holding unconditional offers fell into this category, compared to 56 per cent holding a conditional offer in 2018.

UCAS has worked with a variety of universities and colleges to produce a series of good practice guides to support admissions teams when making unconditional offers.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s clear that the use of unconditional offers is not a binary issue. They’re used in a variety of ways to enable students to progress onto undergraduate courses, and while students are broadly supportive of them, the link with their A level attainment can’t be ignored.

‘The analysis needs to continue though, and many universities and colleges are already tracking the progress of students admitted with unconditional offers. I encourage this evidence to be shared, enabling nuanced debate for the benefit of students, their teachers, and universities.’

In total, 533,360 people were accepted onto an undergraduate course in the 2018 cycle, just 525 fewer than last year.

A record 33 per cent of the 18 year old population in the UK were accepted, an increase of 0.4 percentage points on 2017. 459,285 UK students (of all ages) were accepted, a 0.8 per cent fall on 2017, despite the overall number of 18 year olds in the UK population falling by 2.5 per cent.

International acceptances reached record highs, with the number of students placed from the European Union increasing by 3.8 per cent to 31,855, and non-EU acceptances reaching 42,220, up 4.9 per cent.

Universities and colleges made a total of just over 1.9 million offers, with 92 per cent of applicants receiving an offer – proportionally more than at any other point in the last decade.

The full reports and data files are available in the ‘Data and analysis’ section of ucas.com.  

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 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

This the first release of the 2018 UCAS End of Cycle Report, covering the summary of applicants and acceptances, offer-making, and unconditional offer-making to 18 year olds from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Further chapters of the 2018 End of Cycle Report will be published on 6 and 13 December.

University-level analysis, including unconditional offer data, for the 2018 cycle is due to be published on 31 January 2019.


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.

Also, 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, UCAS applicants from Scotland are not included in the analysis of unconditional offers, though are included in all other analysis, unless stated otherwise.

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