Unconditional offers have always been a feature of university and college admissions, and are used in a variety of circumstances – for example, in admitting mature students who have already achieved sufficient qualifications to meet entry criteria.
Likewise, in Scotland, a substantial proportion of applicants aged 18 have already attained SQA Highers, and therefore met the academic requirements to enter higher education.
However, in recent years, the number of unconditional offers made to 18 year old UK applicants with pending qualifications has grown. This has raised concerns among pre-HE sector practitioners, who worry about potential impacts on student motivation, Level 3 attainment, and preparation for higher level study.
The number of unconditional offers being made to 18 year olds from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales has been increasing year-on-year since 2013, as explained in the 2017 UCAS Undergraduate End of Cycle Report (2.78 MB), and Unconditional offers – an update for 2018.
- In 2013, there were 2,985 offers recorded as unconditional, accounting for 0.4% of all offers to that group of applicants.
- By 2018, unconditional offers had increased to 67,915, accounting for 7.1% of all offers. More than a fifth of 2018 applicants (22.9%, 58,385) received at least one unconditional offer – a rise of 29% on 2017.
There are several reasons why a provider may choose to make unconditional offers, either to an individual student, or as part of their offer-making strategy. Evidence-based decision-making is at the heart of fair admissions, and the resources on this page – alongside UCAS’ data resources – aim to equip providers with the key considerations to assist in compiling a policy, procedures, and processes for making unconditional offers to applicants. They may also be used when reviewing the efficacy of existing strategies.
On 3 July 2020, the Office for Students (OfS) banned ‘conditional unconditional’ offers until September 2021 in light of the current pandemic.
Good practice considerations for unconditional offer-making
In August 2018, we invited universities and colleges to submit expressions of interest in participating in this work. We received a range of bids, and convened a working group comprising representatives from nine universities and colleges, each with different approaches to unconditional offer-making.
To support the sector, we've developed the following resources:
- Good practice considerations for HE providers (376.21 KB) – highlights a series of principles, and key considerations to help with compiling or reviewing strategies and policies for making unconditional offers.
- What are unconditional offers? (441.17 KB) – outlines the broad categories and criteria providers use to select suitable applicants for unconditional offers.
Thanks to those involved
We would like to thank the following for their help and support in the production of these good practice resources:
- Carolyn Deeming, Plymouth College of Art
- Claire Pryke, University of Bradford
- David Moyle, Aberystwyth University
- Dominic Davis, City, University of London
- Michelle Morgan, Bournemouth University
- Natasha Cresswell, University of Gloucestershire
- Nicky Stecker-Doxat, University of Southampton
- Ross Sands, University of Northampton
- Simon Jones, Coventry University
We plan to review these resources in the future, and would appreciate your feedback – please email Ben Jordan, Senior Policy & Qualifications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.