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How do you feel about unconditional offers?

(117 Posts)
verticality Tue 13-Aug-19 11:21:11

I'd be really interested to get views on this! Do you see unconditional offers as a stress-relieving positive, or as a sign that institutions are desperate and grabby?

I work in a RG university that doesn't offer unconditional offers. This is not something we have any control over in departments - it's a policy that is centrally set. Many other universities in the same disciplinary field do make unconditional offers, and we've noticed a slight drop-off in the number of acceptances we've had this year, with some of those students opting to take up an unconditional offer at a rival institution, despite the fact that we score more highly as a department on research, student satisfaction etc. My tentative hunch is that this is possibly a direct result of this policy (though of course there are many factors in a big decision like this!).

I was wondering about your perceptions as parents. What are the pros and cons? What should we be thinking about in relation to this policy?

I don't really have any strong feelings, btw - it would just be really helpful to canvas your opinions so that I can get a sense of how this feels from the 'other' end. We really just want to develop a policy that works for students, at the end of the day.

OP’s posts: |
Themyscira Tue 13-Aug-19 11:29:12

I would be wary of the quality of the course to be honest. Not at that stage yet - eldest is starting college next month - but almost all the colleges we visited had a very lax entrance policy; if the child was upright and breathing, they would be accepted.

DD has chosen a college with much stricter entry requirements and the quality of teaching and attainment is obviously that much higher. (Fingers crossed she gets the results she needs though!!)

LIZS Tue 13-Aug-19 11:35:56

Ds had an unconditional a few years ago , dd will get results this week and that will determine firm/insurance. The uncertainty is stressful and has made it hard to plan this summer for the whole family. With ds he had timings and accommodation organised well in advance so holidays, shopping for things to take away etc could be fitted around his start date. With dd we cannot book short breaks we still hope to have, shop, make travel arrangements, book time off work, organise accommodation until end of this week. Ds went in for results day but did not have the anticipation or worry of his friends needing grades or uni places confirmed.

Shadowboy Tue 13-Aug-19 11:39:49

As a teacher I despise them. They don’t encourage those mid-scoring students (who are the ones who tend to get them) to actually work hard. I also get the feeling they are given out by uni courses who are trying to get ‘bums on seats’ so it does concern me about the quality of the course; and the impact a mediocre set of grades in combination with that course will have for that student in the future.

I have seen more and more given out in the last 3-4 years. I genuinely can’t see what any decent uni would offer them out unless they need that student financially.

LIZS Tue 13-Aug-19 11:42:06

No worries about the quality of ds course. Top 30 uni with high student satisfaction. He was comfortably in the academic range of students, got a first and a prize. I would be more cautious of one from lower rated uni or less established course, desperate to get bums on seats. Mind you dd turned down an unconditional from a RG this year, for a course currently in clearing even though it is a highly respected department in its field.

ChloeDecker Tue 13-Aug-19 11:44:53

As a teacher I really hate them. The past few years I have seen A Level students just switch off, stop putting the work in or even turning up in some cases, as soon as they receive them. Of course, this does affect my performance management selfishly but it also affects the students negatively in the long run.
For each student it benefits (maybe by relieving their anxiety), there will be 10 more students it torpedoes.

Benes Tue 13-Aug-19 11:55:17

I hate them and what they're doing to the sector.

verticality Tue 13-Aug-19 11:58:57

Ahhh, this perspective from teachers is really interesting. Would you push that argument so far as to say that we are actually securing a better calibre of student by not giving unconditional offers @ChloeDecker and @Shadowboy?

OP’s posts: |
Shadowboy Tue 13-Aug-19 12:07:08

I think it leads to a culture of not needing to try. I also can’t understand how they can be offered fairly? If they are not for a bums in seats reason; how to you decide how to chose who gets the unconditional offer? Is it about how well the student/staff are trained in reference writing? Is it based on a postcode? I would understand if they were given out based on some sort of exam/essay/competition but not sure how you can fairly judge with no AS grades anymore. Where I teach we don’t do a proper mock until December of the second year. By then many students have already made applications- so it’s easy for that student to switch off once an unconditional offer is given after a mock result. They don’t need to work their socks off. I would say the average student with an unconditional offer drops half a grade, if not a full grade. Those students you get on your courses who worked hard over two years and met the requirements show they deserve their place.

Happydaughterhappymum Tue 13-Aug-19 12:07:36

My DD actively avoided applying to any uni well known for giving out unconditional offers e.g. Birmingham, she assumed they must be desperate and the courses and teaching inferior.
As a parent I would also be suspicious of any institution aiming to undermine secondary teachers and increase the chance that students will underperform at A level which may affect their post-uni life chances.
That said, I can see the attraction as results day approaches!

VanCleefArpels Tue 13-Aug-19 12:14:16

I know students who got unconditional offers on courses where the entry requirements are AAA or higher. They are usually given to tempt Oxbridge candidates - no question of bums in seats for those courses, and those students usually want to achieve those grades for their own satisfaction so no drop off in effort..

I’ve also seen u/c offers made seemingly within moments of the UCAS form going in. These are for lower entry requirement courses at lesser establishments who undoubtedly want to fill courses. It’s tgese that are the issue.

FWIW my child turned down all the u/c offers she received in favour of a conditional offer at a “better” university. It was tempting But in the longer term most definitely the best decision.

Justneedaflippingtemporaryname Tue 13-Aug-19 12:16:53

Just asked DD and she said an unconditional would not sway her because the kind of uni/ course to offer one would likely be in clearing anyway. In other words they seem desperate.

I'm guessing A/A* students are unlikely to go for these courses. I also don't think an A/A* student would likely be the type to stop working after getting an unconditional.

Dunlurking Tue 13-Aug-19 12:17:07

Absolutely resent them! Ds had one unconditional for his 5th choice, which he hadn't visited. He was soooo tempted but was convinced to visit and realised the course wasn't what he wanted. But the uni was a lot lower down the league table and was supposed to be a possible insurance choice. Anyway he'd just graduated from his first choice, no harm done.

They are so vulnerable when these UC offers come in - at the height of exam stress. Dd is waiting for A level results this week and has been incredibly envious of those with UCs. She would definitely have taken an UC in order to escape the levels of stress she's suffered, despite me telling her over and over all the reasons it isn't good in the longterm. She says Lancaster automatically gave UCs to all her friends who had over a certain number of A/A*s at GCSE level. York also seemed to hand out a fair few. Just waiting to see how it's affected their grades.

SoonerthanIthought Tue 13-Aug-19 12:24:37

I just posted on another thread that Birmingham has notably fewer courses in clearing than (just my random choices) Warwick and leeds. I'd wondered if this meant that Birmingham's uc policy (which seems to be to offer them to high predicted grades students) was successful - though someone has pointed out there may be other factors.

I (dparent not teacher) am not anti UCs particularly and like another pp have never really been convinced that they make students work less hard - suspect it may be that the students who know they aren't going to achieve the predicted grades (possibly o/a not working so hard!) are more likely to accept a UC. But this view is purely guesswork and no factual evidence to go on at all!

verticality Tue 13-Aug-19 12:30:49

First of all, good luck to all of you that have children waiting for results. It's a very nerve-wracking time for them and for the whole of the rest of the family too!

I really appreciate the range of views here - it's quite encouraging to see people taking a three-dimensional view, on both sides of the argument. I'm wondering how common the attitude of 'hold out on a conditional offer, and wait for your grades' is? Are the children doing this now a minority in peer groups that are largely dominated by u/c offers? Or is this fairly common?

I should add that all the 'rival' institutions offering these unconditional offers in our case are well-regarded RG institutions, with high quality courses and good research. I hate to admit it, but none of them are shabby. Of course, they are nowhere near as awesome as we are, obviously. (Biased, moi?) grin

OP’s posts: |
TheFallenMadonna Tue 13-Aug-19 12:32:08

As a teacher, I approach them with caution. As a parent, this week, I really wish DS was holding one...

YeOldeTrout Tue 13-Aug-19 12:41:08

Like you, OP, I have no opinions on U-Os.
Eldest didn't go to Uni, 2nd DC will do medicine where I think U-Os aren't a thing. Other DC, don't know yet.

AFAIK, 2001 was a dip year for births, and this will be noticeable in Uni intakes for a few more yrs yet.

fiftiesmum Tue 13-Aug-19 13:10:10

I feel it is all linked with the ludicrously high grades published in the prospectus. So many courses say they require 3 a grades (with a few giving the odd b). So confusing for students when they are applying.
Offers come in for those grades or u/c so the student chooses the easy path and can then can switch off knowing they have a place.
What also bugs me is that everyone finds first year easy to pass (especially having got in via unconditional offer) and then comes the second year where the pass rate is very much lower and student then comes out with nothing to show for it apart from £30000 of debt for those two years. I would rather the universities made sensible offers and stuck to them and made the first year harder to pass.

Parsley65 Tue 13-Aug-19 13:23:26

Another who completely disagrees with them.
I would actively discourage my DD16 from getting sucked into a system which should be based on merit and not all about the kind of 'bums on seats' approach that seems increasingly prevalent.
Please don't go down this route. Maintain the integrity our your establishment!

BubblesBuddy Tue 13-Aug-19 13:48:36

I think MN parents place great emphasis on course and ranking plus satisfaction tables but lots of people don’t! They want a certain university experience and if it’s not RG, it won’t matter too much and it’s probably offering many unconditional which many parents believe is a prestigious offer. They don’t see it as marketing and financially imperative for the university.

The truth of the matter is that the sector is too big. It needs to be rationalised and there should be a swift return to sensible grade requirements and no unconditionals. If your university is short of students, then it’s not played the bums on seats game, but no doubt others have. Whether that’s best for the student is highly debatable but I think they should be stopped altogether. Same pressure for all!

VanCleefArpels Tue 13-Aug-19 13:48:47

-fiftiesmum if the course requires 3 A’s it means it’s at the very highest end of the academic rigour scale. If students who are capable of getting those grades get a u/c offer in my experience they are not likely to drop off their efforts as they will want to get the best grades possible. Even if they did not get the grades they were predicted it doesn’t make them any less intelligent than they were when they applied. And it’s not that easy to pass first year at most universities!!

Laniakea Tue 13-Aug-19 13:49:52

I'd like to know where all these unconditional offers are! dd is waiting for results on Thursday & only knows two ppl in her 6th form who have them.

IHaveBrilloHair Tue 13-Aug-19 13:59:20

Dds bf got one for Glasgow last year, he still worked hard in 6th year though, and passed first year with all As and Bs.
He's very studious though, Dd much less so, so she didn't apply at all and is going to college instead, and even they didn't give her an unconditional despite her having 3 highers when she applied, she needed to bump her d in maths nat5 up to a c, luckily she got a b.

Purplepooch Tue 13-Aug-19 14:00:53

My Dc got one from Birmingham and it put him off accepting them.

He had high predicted grades and said he felt accepting it would have been very bad for him. He strives to achieve his very best (for him and not in a competitive sense) and he feels accepting one would have been detrimental. He also wants to be with others who work hard, and he worried that this may not be the case with somewhere students had got in with an UC.

Me, this week I wish he had one!!

WorriedMutha Tue 13-Aug-19 14:35:58

My daughter had 5 offers which included one UC, Nottingham. We hadn't even visited so it just made up the numbers on the application. It was a red flag and a no no for her. She wouldn't want to be with other students who were tempted because they can't be arsed. I would also think that in the current climate, it would be easy to pick up a place from these institutions in clearing.

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