“Conditional Unconditional” offers and the effect on students prospects

“Conditional Unconditional” offers that are unconditionally making conditions more difficult for students.

Merry Christmas to everyone! Finding a subject for my blog this week was harder than normal as I am sandwiched between the most divisive General Election ever and the Christmas period. So not to stoke any political wounds or just write about Christmas being weirdly busy (which it is, so check out the Marlin Selection job board) I found an interesting piece on the FT about Conditional Unconditional offers for students at Universities.

Now for the unaware, a “Conditional Unconditional” offer is where a student is offered a place at a University regardless of their A-Level results on the condition that they accept a place straight away. Studies have shown that this causes a drop off in application and eventual final grades of students.

The headline stat is the “latest Ucas figures show about a quarter (25.1 per cent) of 18-year-old university applicants from England, Wales and Northern Ireland – some 64,825 students – received a “conditional unconditional” offer in 2019, up 4.2 percentage points from 20.9 per cent (53,355 students) in 2018.” This is up from just a minuscule 3.1 per cent of applicants receiving one of these offers in 2014 (https://www.tes.com/news/one-four-uni-applicants-given-unconditional-offer).

Is this a manifestation of the now cannibalistic nature of the University system? With competition increasing between Unis and faculties to secure funding, the young minds arm race has descended into this, due to a variety of factors; broader range of courses, more universities, falling application rates, less students from abroad and increasing tuition fees.

The main irony that I can see is that Universities are supposed to be places of higher learning, to encourage people and raise them to the next level (and some social activities as well…) but if starting off with giving someone something, without having to work for it is just going to create problems further down the line.

Personally, I feel universities are a fantastic option for young people looking to learn, build careers and experience new opportunities, but surely, we should be looking to encourage people from the get-go and raise the standards rather than relaxing them. The world of work is very different afterwards and people need to avoid complacency when it comes to applying for a job, as you will not be hired to fill a seat, you need to be adding value to the company. Often our clients want someone with a “spark” – that creative entrepreneurial spirit, which is more likely to be fostered through hard graft than being hand fed.