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St Mary’s University discontinues unconditional offers practice

St Mary’s University in Twickenham, London, has announced that they will no longer provide applicants with unconditional offers, a move commended by Universities Minister Sam Gyimah.

Unconditional offers secure students a place at university without having to meet entry requirements or predicted grades. This year, 23% of undergraduates across the UK were given these offers.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah praised the institution for their decision, and for “putting the interests of students first, and standing up for quality and standards in our higher education system” instead.

Previously, he described the rise in unconditional offers as “irresponsible”, for “distracting students from the final year of their schooling, and swaying their decisions”.

“Universities must act in the interest of students, not in filling spaces,” he added, and stated that he will work with the Office for Students (OfS) to “take appropriate action” against unwarranted unconditional offers.

Earlier this year, Chris Ramsey, headmaster of Whitgift School and co-chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) Universities Committee, said that universities will lose their integrity and respectability if this trend is to continue.

St Mary is one of the first universities to abandon this practice. Pro-vice-chancellor John Brewer, explained that the university hopes to “maintain standards of entry” by doing so.

He said: “It was clear to us that a number of students who enrolled with us after an unconditional offer was made didn’t meet the grades they expected and this didn’t merit the investment we made into that particular part of our recruitment programme.

“By listening to the views of schools, teachers, our own staff and students, we believe that with the evidence that has been available to us that we’ve made the right decision.”

In January 2019, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) will begin naming universities which distribute the most unconditional offers.

This comes after it was found that there has been a 2,100% increase in the number of unconditional offers given to students in five years, from around 3,000 in 2013 to almost 68,000 in 2018.

The University of Warwick has stated that unconditional offers are made only to applicants who have already met the entry requirements.

They said: “While it can be reassuring for applicants to know that one of their UCAS choices is willing to give them an unconditional offer, it is important to fully consider the implications of accepting an unconditional offer in these circumstances.

“Achievement at A-levels is excellent preparation for study at University and these qualifications are considered by graduate employers when shortlisting candidates for graduate schemes.

“We therefore strongly encourage applicants to base their decision primarily on the course and university that best suits their interests and long term aims, rather than on whether a place at a particular institution would be automatically guaranteed.”

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