The Telegraph is reporting that universities making unconditional offers may be breaking the law by “pressure selling”’ to students, the higher education watchdog has warned.
The number of unconditional offers has risen sharply in recent years, with students now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago.
Some institutions hand out “incentivised” offers, where they tell students that their offer will be unconditional but only if they accept it as their first choice university.
Now the Office for Students (OfS) has warned that applying “psychological pressure” or “creating an impression of urgency” in decision making could be a potential breach of consumer protection law.
It comes as the regulator publishes a report that examines the impact of unconditional offers on students’ decision making. It found that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades by two or more grades.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that schools have been increasingly concerned about the impact unconditional offers have on student motivation and achievement.
“Colleges and schools are dealing with the unintended consequence of the practice as students worry less about their grades and so take their foot off the gas,” he said. “The OfS consultation will need to address potential solutions to drastically reduce or even rule-out this practice.”
A spokeswoman for Universities UK said: “We will explore with Ucas if there is more we can do as a sector to promote good practice and ensure the admissions system continues to work in the best interests of students.
“We will also engage with the Office for Students as it consults with the higher education sector on its work to develop principles for an admissions system that serves the interests of students.”
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