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15th June 2014
Competition for universities to attract strong candidates is fierce. They have revived the practice of offering unconditional offers to strong candidates.
Birmingham started this trend last year when it gave out around 1,000 unconditional offers across 12 courses, and for 2014 entry this has been extended to cover over 30 different subject areas. Queen Mary, Nottingham, Leicester and Sussex have joined Birmingham this year with 1,200 candidates (15% of the applicants) to the University of Sussex receiving unconditional offers. Jessie Sun, who applied to study Media and Communications at the University of Sussex, quotes their student newspaper saying “I was really delighted at the chance of an unconditional offer, but at the same time, it’s made it a lot harder for me to narrow down my choices… I’m going to have to go back to square one and look at all the pros and cons of all my choices”. Others admitted that the “clinching factor in choosing their firm choice was the unconditional offer.”
The Telegraph reports that one leading Russell Group university told them: “I am concerned at the attempt to downgrade the importance of A-levels. That is the effect that these changes will have. These universities are saying, ‘If you make us your firm choice we’ll make you an unconditional offer’. That’s not in the applicant’s best interest.”
I do not believe that this development is necessarily the best for all students. Some will be drawn to particular universities and courses by unconditional offers and reduction in fees and this is a clever marketing strategy for excellent universities to attract the strongest candidates. However, it will be really important for students to choose the course because of its merit and suitability. Of one thing I am sure – it will change the face of higher education significantly in the near future. A levels may not remain the touchstone of success. With the possible demise of AS levels for all students will GCSE’s and school predictions really determine the future for our young people in this country?
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