29th November 2018
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education brought to you by Education Advisers...
One-third of 18-year-old university applicants get unconditional offer.
A report by the Ucas admissions agency revealed that open unconditional offers continued to rise this year, from 3,000 in 2013 to 68,000, and reached 87,500 when combined with offers that became unconditional when a student made that university their firm choice.
Combining the two forms of unconditional offers means 34% of 18-year-olds applying through Ucas received an offer from one of the five universities they had selected.
The use of unconditional offers is controversial among school leaders, who say they disrupt pupils’ efforts. But those concerns are only partly borne out by the Ucas data, which shows students holding unconditional offers were marginally less likely to achieve their predicted grades than their peers with conditional offers.
The figures show a majority of sixth-form applicants missed their predicted A-level grades, regardless of the type of offer held. Applicants with offers conditional on achieving specific grades missed their targets by two grades or more in 56% of cases, compared with 67% for students with unconditional offers.
A survey of 18-year-olds by Ucas found 70% of applicants supported the use of unconditional offers, noting: “Many speak about a reduction in stress, and the mental health and wellbeing benefits this confers.”
“Applicants themselves remain broadly supportive of the use of unconditional offers, welcoming the certainty of knowing they have a place, and being able to go ahead and arrange their accommodation and start planning for their lives in higher education.”
The University and College Union said the controversy showed the UK’s system for university applications needed a radical overhaul.
It said: “The time has come for the UK to join the rest of the world and adopt a system of post-qualification admissions, where offers are based on actual achievement rather than estimated potential.”
General secretary of the Independent Schools Council, Julie Robinson, says many private schools operate on a non-profit basis and have felt the pinch of rising costs.
“Just like other schools and organisations, schools in membership of ISC associations are subject to budgetary pressures and these are uncertain times economically,” Ms Robinson explained.
“The majority of ISC schools are small and do not have large foundations; they operate on a not-for-profit basis. Therefore, the combined effects of increased National Insurance, pensions and other costs mean that economies must be made and responsible organisations need to plan ahead.
“It is no surprise, therefore, that some independent schools are cutting costs to ensure sustainability.”
Shaun Fenton, Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference chair and head of Reigate Grammar School, also added “It’s worth bearing in mind that, by and large, the independent sector [is made up of] not-for-profit organisations that work on a premise that all the income that is generated is reinvested. The fee levels merely reflect what it costs to run what are in many cases world-class schools.”
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