A Nottingham union official has voiced his concern over the increasing number of unconditional university offers being handed out to 18-year-old students.

Joint secretary of the Nottingham National Education Union (NEU), Rob Illingworth said: “There are a number of implications – it undermines the examination system at A-level.

“If you were given an unconditional offer months before you sit your A-Level, where is the motivation to try and achieve that excellence in the exams that you might have previously needed without an unconditional offer?”

Pictured: Joint secretary of the Nottingham National Education Union (NEU), Rob Illingworth

Audio: Rob Illingworth speaking about the implications of universities handing out too many unconditional offers

It comes after the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) revealed that the number of unconditional offers made to 18-year old-students from England, Northern Ireland and Wales increased from 2,985 in 2013 to 67,915 in 2018.

The UCAS End of Cycle Report 2018 additionally found that applicants holding an unconditional offer as their firm choice were more likely to miss their predicted attainment by two grades, compared with those holding a conditional one.

It also stated that last year, three in five applicants who received an unconditional offer said it influenced which university they made their firm choice.


The Association of Colleges (AoC) – a national not-for-profit organisation that has been representing and promoting the interest of colleges since 1996 – shares similar concerns to Mr Illingworth.

Chief executive of the AoC David Hughes said: “The increase in numbers [of conditional offers] over the last few years cannot be explained away simply as attempts to widen participation.

“There are better ways to achieve that, with contextualised offers, for instance.

“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. The Office for Students (OfS) consultation will need to address potential solutions to drastically reduce or even rule-out this practice.”