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University and school leaders urge overhaul of unconditional offers system

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A group of university and school leaders – including Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, Brunel University London's Vice-Chancellor and President – has called for action to regulate the growing practice of offering unconditional offers to prospective students.

Writing in a letter published today by The Times, Prof Buckingham and fellow leaders express concern that unconditional offers are detrimental to the longer-term interests of students, skew university choices, and reduce the motivation and quality of sixth-form life in schools.

If a university makes a conditional offer to a student studying for A levels, or comparable qualifications, then the student is guaranteed a place at the university without the need to fulfil academic requirements. And according to Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the number of unconditional offers has increased from fewer than 3,000 in 2013 to nearly 68,000 in 2018, meaning that one in four students now receives at least one unconditional offer.

The group explains that they do not advocate an outright ban, but that:

  • if unconditional offers are made to students before they receive their exam grades, then the student should not be compelled to accept it until after he/she has received all offers of a place
  • the student should have the option of accepting an unconditional offer as either a firm or insurance place.

The Times also published an associated article: 'University chiefs want overhaul of unconditional offers system'.

The signatories of the letter:

Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice-chancellor and President, Brunel University London; Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham; Sir William Atkinson, former Head, Phoenix High School; Geoff Barton, General Secretary, ASCL; Dame Rachel de Souza, CEO, Inspiration Trust; Vivienne Durham, CEO, Girls’ Schools Association; Professor Edward Byrne, President and Principal, King’s College London; Shaun Fenton, HMC Chairman and Head of Reigate Grammar School; Lucy Heller, CEO of the education charity Ark; Barnaby Lenon, former Headmaster of Harrow School and Chairman of the Independent Schools Council; Professor Jane Longmore, Vice-Chancellor, University of Chichester; Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire; Mike Nicholson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Bath; Chris Ramsey, Headmaster of Whitgift School and Chairman of the joint Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Girls’ School Association (GSA) Universities Committee; Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor, University of the West of England

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821
joe.buchanunn@brunel.ac.uk