MPs to probe unconditional offers from universities Watch

Puddles the Monkey
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Paraphrased from the BBC:

Unconditional offers have increased 'more than 17-fold in five years'.

'Critics say unconditional offers are bad for students because some neglect their revision, while some accept offers that are not really right for them and later drop out.'

'Some universities offer students an unconditional place, but only if they chose that institution as their "firm" choice on their UCAS form.'

One sixth-form head interviewed on Radio Four described this as 'a form of bribery.'

Do you agree that there are too many unconditional offers given out?

Do you think that unconditional offers given in exchange for being firmed are a form of bribery?

Should we change the university application system altogether and wait until students have their confirmed A-level grades before applications even begin?
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CoolCavy
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Well I personally didn't slack off revision. Was given an unconditional cos I did well at the interview and then got AAA*. There is this annoying stigma that everyone who gets unconditional just coasts the rest of the year. It was also my favourite uni in the first place. I got unconditional from another uni but that wouldn't have made me want to go there since I didn't like it. Most of the pressure to slack off or whatever comes from other students 'oh you have an unconditional you don't even need to be here' 'why are you stressed' etc etc
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PQ
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I'd say bribery is putting it mildly - they're a deliberate attempt to manipulate applicants into making choices against their best interests and to exploit insecurity.

I'd like to see schools/colleges boycotting universities that try to manipulate their students in this way (obviously unless that specific course/university was the applicants top choice regardless).
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Dez
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Feels like a bit of a double-edged sword really. One one hand, they make the most stressful part of a student's academic career (A-level results) a lot less of a worry. On the other hand, it's very much a University of Bums on Seats sort-of policy, it shows how certain unis are less concerned about students actually learning anything and more about just getting them through the door in order to get tuition fees.

I definitely think it's a good thing to investigate unconditionals, hopefully this probe will help us explore the issue properly.
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sindyscape62
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
Well I personally didn't slack off revision. Was given an unconditional cos I did well at the interview and then got AAA*. There is this annoying stigma that everyone who gets unconditional just coasts the rest of the year. It was also my favourite uni in the first place. I got unconditional from another uni but that wouldn't have made me want to go there since I didn't like it. Most of the pressure to slack off or whatever comes from other students 'oh you have an unconditional you don't even need to be here' 'why are you stressed' etc etc
In your case it sounds like nothing would have changed if your offer hadn't been unconditional since it was your top choice uni anyway and you still got good grades.

I think there's definitely an argument that unconditional offers shouldn't be a thing - people who use them as they're meant to be used, like you, wouldn't be disadvantaged, and other people wouldn't unfairly be able to get a place with no work.
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hannxm
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(Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
Paraphrased from the BBC:

Unconditional offers have increased 'more than 17-fold in five years'.

'Critics say unconditional offers are bad for students because some neglect their revision, while some accept offers that are not really right for them and later drop out.'

'Some universities offer students an unconditional place, but only if they chose that institution as their "firm" choice on their UCAS form.'

One sixth-form head interviewed on Radio Four described this as 'a form of bribery.'

Do you agree that there are too many unconditional offers given out?

Do you think that unconditional offers given in exchange for being firmed are a form of bribery?

Should we change the university application system altogether and wait until students have their confirmed A-level grades before applications even begin?
Nope. They give unconditional offers if they feel the student is good enough - what the student does is not their problem.
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Exceptional
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I've met people at my university that received unconditional offers and firmed it even though some admittedly preferred another uni.

As PQ said, it just plays on people's insecurity.
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Puddles the Monkey
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(Original post by hannxm)
Nope. They give unconditional offers if they feel the student is good enough - what the student does is not their problem.
If the student firms a uni that wasn't their first choice and subsequently drops out because they're unhappy, that willl affect the uni :beard: but I guess they calculate that risk :holmes:
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(Original post by hannxm)
Nope. They give unconditional offers if they feel the student is good enough - what the student does is not their problem.
If that were true then the offers would be truly unconditional. However, what gives away the fact they are, in fact, merely attempts to manipulate a candidate's behaviour in the interests solely of the university, is the fact that they only become unconditional if the university's conditional offer is firmly accepted. They are not unconditional if the candidate uses them as insurance. That fact says everything you need to know.
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(Original post by PQ)
I'd say bribery is putting it mildly - they're a deliberate attempt to manipulate applicants into making choices against their best interests and to exploit insecurity.

I'd like to see schools/colleges boycotting universities that try to manipulate their students in this way (obviously unless that specific course/university was the applicants top choice regardless).
I agree with everything you say but the solution is a simple one that requires action by only one body: UCAS should ban 'unconditional if firm' offers, leaving universities to make either conditional offers or unconditional offers.

Nervous candidates would then be able to accept as insurance an unconditional offer and still hope to go somewhere that is more to their liking. However, the measure would lead to unconditional offers disappearing altogether overnight, or at least returning to their traditional use and frequency.
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999tigger
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Ambivalent. Its a competitive market. Some analysis on whether unconditional candidates perform significantly worse might be interesting. If they do then there might be some cause for concern. They still form a relatively small % (an increase of 17x from a small base can be misleading) of offers though and I expect many of them are ignored. If candidates perform poorly then the overall rep of the uni will eventually decline..

Imo there ought to be some compulsory education for sixth formers about choosing unis and the pitfalls of student debt etc..
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Dez
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(Original post by Good bloke)
If that were true then the offers would be truly unconditional. However, what gives away the fact they are, in fact, merely attempts to manipulate a candidate's behaviour in the interests solely of the university, is the fact that they only become unconditional if the university's conditional offer is firmly accepted. They are not unconditional if the candidate uses them as insurance. That fact says everything you need to know.
It's certainly clear that the unis have their own interests at heart when giving out these offers, rather than those of the students. If UCAS disallowed the pick-firm-to-get-unconditional schtick that would improve the balance I think, though it might not be sufficient to keep things fair both for students and for competing unis - not all of them engage in this practice, after all.
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PQ
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(Original post by Good bloke)
I agree with everything you say but the solution is a simple one that requires action by only one body: UCAS should ban 'unconditional if firm' offers, leaving universities to make either conditional offers or unconditional offers.

Nervous candidates would then be able to accept as insurance an unconditional offer and still hope to go somewhere that is more to their liking. However, the measure would lead to unconditional offers disappearing altogether overnight, or at least returning to their traditional use and frequency.
You're assuming that UCAS have the authority or any interest in looking after applicants.

This started with Birmingham and the Russell Group have been threatening to leave UCAS for years now - even if UCAS *did* give a **** about applicants they are too afraid of the RG leaving and destroying their monopoly to take action.
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chazwomaq
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(Original post by Dez)
they make the most stressful part of a student's academic career (A-level results) a lot less of a worry.
A levels should be stressful - it's important to do as well as you can in them!
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(Original post by Dez)
It's certainly clear that the unis have their own interests at heart when giving out these offers, rather than those of the students.
Surely that applies to all offers. All universities want to get as many good students as they can manage.
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Plagioclase
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I do agree that it's bribery, on the other hand I find it hard to blame the universities when this is a pretty obvious consequence of the government trying to turn higher education into a market place. They've turned university into a commodity, and they're now shocked when universities are competing for funds.
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(Original post by PQ)
You're assuming that UCAS have the authority or any interest in looking after applicants.

This started with Birmingham and the Russell Group have been threatening to leave UCAS for years now - even if UCAS *did* give a **** about applicants they are too afraid of the RG leaving and destroying their monopoly to take action.
Good point! That is an interesting take on it. I must admit I had not considered that UCAS is too scared to do anything, and there is a strong likelihood you are right. We'll have to hope that MPs force its hand.
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CoolCavy
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(Original post by sindyscape62)
In your case it sounds like nothing would have changed if your offer hadn't been unconditional since it was your top choice uni anyway and you still got good grades.

I think there's definitely an argument that unconditional offers shouldn't be a thing - people who use them as they're meant to be used, like you, wouldn't be disadvantaged, and other people wouldn't unfairly be able to get a place with no work.
I dont know about that. It didnt make me less stressed from an exam perspective as i always wanted to get good grades so regardless i worked for that but it was nice to know i was definitely going somewhere as for someone with anxiety it made results day less anxious from a university offer perspective. Also i dont know about other courses but for arts courses uncondtionals make sense and people dont get a place unfairly from them. You have to make a portfolio and then attend an interview. This is a **** tonne of work especially when trying to balance 3 other a levels and everything else. If they **** up their a levels then yeh they didnt work as hard at the end as someone who did well in their a levels necessarily but they had worked hard prior to that point otherwise wouldnt have been given the unconditional in the first place (mine was based upon my portfolio, my AS grades, my predicted grades and my interview performance). Unis that just give out unconditional without an interview or without seeing the applicant is a different matter but that wasnt what i was referring to.
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Doonesbury
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(Original post by PQ)
You're assuming that UCAS have the authority or any interest in looking after applicants.

This started with Birmingham and the Russell Group have been threatening to leave UCAS for years now - even if UCAS *did* give a **** about applicants they are too afraid of the RG leaving and destroying their monopoly to take action.
Interesting, but do you think the other RGs would support Birmingham (and Nottingham) enough on this specific issue to stop UCAS from banning "unconditional if firmed"?
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PQ
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
Interesting, but do you think the other RGs would support Birmingham (and Nottingham) enough on this specific issue to stop UCAS from banning "unconditional if firmed"?
No idea - but UCAS have stated that they "cannot" ban it so it's a non-issue. Why they came to that conclusion is another matter - but they're not banning anything about these offers unless the government insist.
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