Universities must pause unconditional offers for two weeks in student interest, says regulator

Nicola Dandridge responds to the announcement that universities should stop making unconditional offers or amending existing offers to students for two weeks.

Four students taking notes in a lecture theatre

Supporting comments from the Universities Minister on university admissions today, Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge said:

'These are extraordinarily difficult times and universities and colleges will be understandably concerned about the next academic year. However, it would be quite wrong for any university or college to respond to the coronavirus crisis by making unconditional offers that may put pressure on worried students to accept courses that may not be in their best long-term interests.

'The exams regulator Ofqual is rapidly developing a fair way of issuing A-level grades which should provide reassurance to students, and will also mean that there is no reason to rush decisions. Given Ofqual’s work, universities and colleges have no reason to be making these offers in response to the current situation.

'Universities and colleges must stop making offers that are not in the best interests of students. They should not make any unconditional offer or amend existing offers for at least two weeks while Ofqual develops the details of the new system.

'Many universities and colleges have been responding to the enormous challenges of coronavirus with innovation and ingenuity. But it is critical that every university and college puts the student’s interest first in these difficult times. 

'So, I want to make it very clear to any university or college – and its leaders and governors - that if any university or college makes unconditional offers or adjusts any offer to students during this two week moratorium we will use any powers available to us to prevent such offer making on the grounds that it is damaging to students and not in their interests.

'I want to reassure students that – whether they have been studying for A-levels, BTECs or other qualifications – there will be plenty of places for them in the autumn and they should not be concerned about this two week moratorium. The pause simply allows us to make sure the revised arrangements work effectively and that their hard work gets its deserved recognition. The risk is that an unconditional offer may appear superficially attractive, but may not represent the right decision. Students should take time to consider their options, and take advice.'

Published 23 March 2020

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