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Universities are told off for making it too easy for students to get a place

The higher education watchdog has warned unis to stop offering so many prospective students a place regardless of what grades they get.

British universities are supposed to be meritocratic, where places at the best institutions and most competitive courses are awarded to applicants with the highest grades. Consequently, when universities offer someone a place, it usually came with the condition that they get certain grades in their A Levels.

In the last few years, however, there’s been a growing trend of unis handing out lots of ‘unconditional offers’ instead, where applicants are accepted regardless of their final test scores. Unconditional offers have soared from 2,985 in 2013 to 75,845 in 2019 - a rise of 2,440 percent.

Lots of people, including The Office for Students (a government body which regulates higher education) are unhappy about this. They think unis just want to up their student numbers as much as possible in order to get more money from their fees.

University fees for British and EU students were trebled to £9,000 in 2012, which the beady eyed amongst you will notice was just before the number of unconditional offers started rapidly rising. There’s also evidence that unconditional offers lead to students getting worse A Level grades, which could dampen their employment options later on.

But not everyone thinks one set of exam results should determine your access to further education, especially when your future job prospects and salary are significantly upped if you get a degree, especially one from a good institution. Plenty of students who miss their required grades could have just been having a bad day or demonstrate excellence in other ways and go on to be fantastic university students.

Read our explainer on: human capital.

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Reader Comments

  • Interesting story. I’m planning a business trip to Prato. Hopefully I will find what I need there.