Why cutting down on unconditional offers is not a bad thing
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Last week it was reported that England's higher education watchdog has warned universities that unconditional offers could lead to them losing their status as an institution. I am sure that few of us are lacking in opinions about this. The Office for Students (OfS) has claimed that unconditional offers for a place at university are in the same league as pressure selling and could be in breach of consumer law, due to their ‘strings-attached’ nature. Consequently, the regulator has announced that it is prepared to take action against universities and colleges that misuse the offers. Some of us have gone to university on an unconditional offer, others have not. It’s hard not to see the benefits of unconditionals: applicants still at school have a place at university regardless of what results they get in their exams, and this undeniably takes the pressure off stressed students. We all know, however, that everything good has a downside. I find the worst offender of the unconditional offers to be the ‘conditional unconditional’ – this is where the offer is only unconditional if students make the offer their firm choice. These offers prey on the insecurities of strong students, who may be worried about achieving conditional offers in a somewhat volatile exam system – I know that I certainly was. They pressure students to make snap decisions, and choose a university that may not be the best one for them - just to have the guarantee of a place next September. This is, at best, bordering on illegal and at worst, completely immoral. Unconditionals are supposed to relieve the stress of getting into university, but by having ‘strings attached’, they can give applicants even more to think and worry about.
Some students have said that these ‘conditional-unconditionals’ lead them to believe that universities don’t really care what grades they get, but simply how many empty places the institution can fill. It’s easy to understand why recipients of the offers have often been left feeling undervalued and nothing more than a ‘bum on a seat’.
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