Universities are to stop offering ‘unconditional’ places to students amid fears it is lowering A Level grades by discouraging students from working hard
- Eight institutions have vowed to halt the practice after letter from minister
- Seven other universities have pledged to review their use of the offers
- It came after an intervention from Education Secretary Damian Hinds
Eight universities have stopped, or will stop, offering ‘conditional unconditional’ offers to prospective students.
The move comes after the Education Secretary wrote to 23 institutions urging them to end the ‘unethical practice’.
A conditional unconditional offer informs students they are guaranteed a place but only if they put the university as their first option.
Seven other institutions have pledged to review their use of the offers.
Damian Hinds wrote to 23 institutions asking them to end the ‘unethical practice’
Damian Hinds recently challenged the sector to do more to end the use of essay-writing services, curb artificial grade inflation and stop using questionable student recruitment techniques.
In March he called on PayPal to stop processing transactions for essay mills.
The Department for Education says the online payment platform has since committed to ending the function, which will reduce the number of students cheating at university.
Mr Hinds praised action taken by universities and companies to protect quality in higher education, while defending his right to speak out after being accused of making unlawful interventions.
He said: ‘Our universities are world class and world leading, with four ranked among the top 10 across the globe.
‘At the heart of that global reputation is a trust in the quality and high standards of the education provided – this reputation is hard won and should be fiercely protected.
‘That is why I am delighted by the actions taken so far to rise to the challenge of preserving that quality.
‘I wholeheartedly support PayPal’s decision to withdraw services from essay-writing firms that are exploiting university students.
‘This is a big step forward towards beating academic cheating but we now need more organisations to follow suit – it is their moral duty to do so.
‘I also welcome the responses from the universities I wrote to regarding their use of ‘conditional unconditional’ offers – particularly those who have informed me that they have ended this practice or committed to reviewing it.’
Mr Hinds rejected some vice chancellors’ claims that his comments on how universities operate their admissions could be unlawful.
He said: ‘While I am pleased that many university leaders are taking the issue seriously, it is a shame there are still some trying to justify practices which are damaging the integrity of our higher education and students’ interests.
‘I make no apology for speaking out as I have done.’
The Education Secretary said he could not ‘stand idly by’ watching questionable practices.
‘Universities are making billions of pounds in public funds, as well as students’ own contributions, and I have a responsibility also to sixth form teachers, who want all their students to have the same incentive to reach their best.
‘It is my job to make sure the education system works to help everyone make the most of their potential, and I am not afraid to get my hands dirty for this.’