Unconditional university offers 'seriously hamper' education, headteacher claims
Unconditional offers from universities can 'seriously hamper' the education of young people at an important time of their education, a Shropshire headteacher has said.
Gary Hickey, headmaster of Haberdashers' Adams, said extra effort at A-Level can help young people stand out from the crowd – but that an increase in unconditional offers made it far too easy to cruise.
His comments come after it was revealed that 23 per cent of 18-year-old students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales had received at least one unconditional offer.
Mr Hickey said: “Whilst unconditional offers have always been a part of the university admissions process, we have seen a huge increase over the past 12 months.
"Sadly they can seriously hamper teaching and motivation as understandably pupils can feel there is no need to continue to work to get the best results they can as they already have an unconditional offer.
"A-levels are a hugely important qualification that provide advantages later on in life as they are widely recognised by employers around the world. A strong set of A-level results, combined with a degree, will help you stand out from other candidates.”
The University and College Union, a higher education trade union, has called for an overhaul of the admissions process to allow students to apply after receiving their exams.
Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, said: "The proliferation of unconditional offers is detrimental to the interests of students and it is time the UK joined the rest of the world in basing university offers on actual achievements instead on guesswork."
Helen Thorne, UCAS' Director of External Relations, said: "While unconditional offers are made for a number of reasons, we believe that universities should always emphasise to students the importance of completing their studies to the best of their abilities.
"This will help make sure they’re well prepared for their degree course, and for future employment."
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: "The rise in unconditional offers is completely irresponsible to students and universities must start taking a lead, by limiting the number they offer.
"Places at universities should only be offered to those who will benefit from them, and giving out unconditional offers just to put ‘bums on seats’ undermines the credibility of the university system.
"Along with the Office for Students, I am closely monitoring the number being issued and fully expect the regulator to take appropriate action. Unconditional offers risk distracting students from the final year of their schooling, and swaying their decisions does them a disservice – universities must act in the interest of students, not in filling spaces."