A recent report published by the Office for Students (OfS) found that the drop-out rate among students who entered university with unconditional offers was 10% higher than among those who had not. The study also showed that the number of unconditional offers received by students has increased, with almost one in three students having received at least one offer with an unconditional element.
The ‘End of the Cycle’ report released by UCAS showed that Nottingham Trent University gave out 8,660 unconditional offers, making it the highest given by any provider. The University of Manchester does not currently have any unconditional offer initiatives, with almost all the offers it made being conditional. According to a study published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), UoM had 3.7% of UK domiciled full-time undergraduate students discontinuing their education in the 2016/17 academic year.
The OfS report showed that Russell Group universities such as the University of Birmingham also give out a large number of unconditional offers through their Unconditional Offer Scheme.
Such a scheme is also available at the Manchester Metropolitan University, which “aims to identify exceptional undergraduate applicants”. Through this, students can go on to apply for an Academic Achievement Bursary. According to the same HESA study, the University had 7.9% of UK domiciled full-time undergraduate students leave higher education in the 2016/17 academic year.
Earlier this year, ex-Education Secretary Damien Hinds described the use of conditional unconditional offers as “unethical” and a “pressure selling” tactic. Such type of offers usually requires the student to choose the university as their firm choice to make the offer unconditional, which means that the student has secured a place at the university irrespective of their grades.
The University and College Union’s general secretary, Jo Grady, called for an “urgent reform” of the admissions structure. Grady stated that universities sending out large numbers of unconditional offers are “often more focused on the bottom line than on student interests”.
Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “We [also] have particular concerns about the use of conditional unconditional offers, which can potentially pressure students into accepting a place which may not be the best option for them.”