University admissions overhaul needed to tackle unconditional offers, says UCU

24 January 2019 | last updated: 25 January 2019

Responding to warnings from the Office for Students (OfS) to universities over their use of unconditional offers, UCU said the best solution was to overhaul how and when students apply to university.

Launching a consultation on how the admissions system can best serve students, the OfS likened universities' use of some unconditional offers to "pressure selling". UCU said the consultation had to look seriously at moving to a post-qualification application (PQA) system.

The union recently set out a model for an admissions system where students apply to university after they receive their grades. UCU believes this approach would be fairer for students, bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of unconditional offers as well as the chaotic clearing process.

UCU head of policy, Matt Waddup, said: 'It is encouraging that the higher education sector is finally looking at how to tackle the explosion of unconditional offers. Any consultation must prominently feature the voices of staff as they are the ones on the front line.

'Shifting to a system where students apply to university after they receive their grades would make these type of unconditional offers redundant, bring us in line with the rest of the world and end the chaotic clearing scramble.'

Almost a quarter of students applying to university received at least one unconditional offer in 2018, compared to just 1% five years ago. Yet as few as one in six (16%) students have their A-level grades predicted correctly. No other countries use predicted grades to award university places, and seven in ten staff involved in university admissions back a PQA system.

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