1. ITV Report

Students offered guaranteed places before they sit exams

There has been a huge rise in the number of unconditional offers Credit: ITV

Thousands of students in our region are being offered guaranteed places at university months before they even sit their exams according to figures released for the first time.

There's been a huge rise in the number of unconditional offers being made to 18 year olds according to a report released today by the central university admission service, UCAS.

At Southampton Solent 58 per cent of all offers being made were unconditional in 2018 - i.e. they didn't depend on results. That's a huge rise - two years before that, in 2016, it was just 0.1 per cent.

The figures are the fifth highest in the country.

Other universities in the South with a high proportion of unconditional offers were the University of Brighton (40.2 per cent), Bournemouth (39.5 per cent), Oxford Brookes (28.7 per cent) and Winchester (28.3 per cent).

Southampton Solent University said: "26 per cent of our unconditional offers in 2018 had additional assessments such as interviews, auditions, or portfolio reviews."

At the other end of the scale, other universities make hardly any unconditional offers to teenagers sitting exams.

They include Southampton 0.1%, Chichester 0.3%, Oxford 0.4 %, Reading 1.9% and Buckingham 2%.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the watchdog, the Office for Students, said: "There are some good reasons why universities might make unconditional offers. However, for a number of universities this data will make uncomfortable reading – where they cannot justify the offers they make, they should reconsider their approach.”

There is particular concern around offers of places where students have to make a particular university their first choice before it becomes unconditional. These offers are called "conditional unconditionals".

According to the UCAS data, 40 per cent of offers at the University of Brighton and a similar number at the University of Bournemouth were this type of offer.

The University of Brighton said it only makes such offers to applicants that they feel will benefit most from this type of offer, and they will continue to review their admissions practice annually.