In recent years the number of unconditional offers issued by mainstream universities has surged, with the number of such offers given increasing by 3900% over the last five years. More than ever students are getting into universities without the added pressure of A-Level success. Recent action has, however, sought to clamp down on this.
Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, has described this phenomenon as ‘pressure selling’, yet as a reactionary government review commences, universities have raised concerns over the legality of government intervention with regards to autonomy within the admissions process. It is alleged that this will set in motion a malicious oversight by ministers within a no longer independent education system.
Here in Newcastle merely 0.4% of offers were without conditions attached – consider too those who applied after having received their A-Level results. However this figure is vastly trumped by the likes of Birmingham’s 18.9%. More locally Northumbria University has seen a rise in unconditional entries. What concerns many education experts is that these figures follow a small slump in students scoring top grades at A-Level the previous year, indicating that more students are being offered university places despite average grades declining.
In terms of academic performance, this new fad of issuing unconditional offers has had a wider impact, with UCAS-led research concluding that unconditional offers were having a direct downturn on student’s grades. Where around 56% of 18 year olds miss out on their teacher’s predicted grades, this percentage rises by 11 percentage points for those striving towards the empty goal of the unconditional offer.
Most teachers will concur – unconditional offers fragment the focus of the student. With the cap on university admissions removed as of 2012, many are questioning whether the trend of unconditional offers is a positive change for our academic institutions. Some argue that more students means a greater popular intelligentsia, and that a rise in unconditional offers reduces the educational exclusivity universities used to operate. But one thing is clear in the years of future admissions – big brother is watching.