Conditional unconditional offers set to fall in 2020

group of students graduating

In 2019, conditional unconditional offers were at their highest numbers yet

Conditional unconditional offers have been on the rise over the last seven years – but 2020 could see a sharp decline in the amount of conditional unconditional offers universities hand out, Ucas says.

A conditional unconditional offer is one with strings attached, as it only stands if the applicant picks that university as their first choice. This type of offer has proved fairly controversial, and data shows that students who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to drop out of their degree.

In 2019, conditional unconditional offers were at their highest numbers ever, with one in four university applicants from England, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving one, the Ucas data shows.

This is set to change in 2020, though, with Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant commenting that “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.”

New types of offers could spring up in their place

The predicted drop in conditional unconditional offers is based on three factors, Marchant says.

One is that some universities have announced that they’re going to stop making them. Another is that there’s already been a fall in the amount of conditional unconditional offers being made, and the third is that the data shows that students are “only marginally more likely to choose a conditional unconditional offer as their firm choice”.

However, the decline of conditional unconditionals wouldn’t necessarily signal the end of universities being strategic about how they make their offers.

“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,” Marchant comments.

group of students graduating

TSR members share their thoughts on conditional unconditionals

TSR members have been giving their opinions on conditional unconditional offers.

Some think they don’t benefit students.

“These offers are good for everyone except students … They either end up at an institution below their ability because they are worried about the security of a conditional offer, or they have worse A-level grades than they should,” vicvic38 says.

TSR member Paracosm thinks “it’s such an insulting concept.”

“I’ve never received a conditional unconditional, but I did receive a ‘reduced if firm’ offer from Reading,” they add.

“They originally wanted ABB but would reduce to BBC if firmed – some people might love this idea, but it irritated me and I rejected the offer. I don’t think it’s right, if you can give a lower offer arbitrarily then surely everyone should have access to that regardless?”

The RAR says “I support unconditional offers but [conditional unconditionals] is a tactic of money extortion by universities imo. They really want to make sure you pick them so your money goes to them.”

CoolCavy thinks that unconditional offers can be a good thing.

“I worked extremely hard for [my unconditional offer], achieved A*AA in my real exams and I am fed up of hearing this one-sided narrative of how unconditional offers are the spawn of the devil.

“Perhaps before people constantly spew unconditional = bad, they should talk to people who do arts-based courses, had interviews and were offered an unconditional place,” they comment.

TSR member harrysbar says “I don’t actually see what is wrong with someone accepting an unconditional offer as long as that uni would have been their first choice anyway. It’s just that some unis use unconditional offers to manipulate students and that’s not fair.”

And Toastiekid has been given a conditional unconditional offer already, commenting: “I have an interview for a conditional unconditional in a few weeks.

“Whether I take it depends on what the uni is like when I visit and if I prefer it to the other unis/courses I’m considering. Am trying to ignore the fact that it could be unconditional when making these decisions.”


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