subtext readers will have seen that Lancaster was one of 23 universities ‘named and shamed’ by the Department for Education on 5 April for excessive use of unconditional offers to prospective undergraduates (see also subtext 184). In particular, our widespread use of ‘conditional unconditional’ offers, where your offer is only made unconditional if you select us as your firm choice, was slammed by the Secretary of State, Damian Hinds MP, as ‘damaging the reputation of the institutions involved and our world-leading sector as a whole. That is why I will be writing to 23 universities, urging them to stamp out this unethical practice.’
The 23 institutions are: Aston; Birmingham; Birmingham City; Bournemouth; Brighton; City; Derby; Hertfordshire; Keele; Kent; Kingston; Lancaster; Lincoln; Loughborough College; Middlesex; Nottingham Trent; Oxford Brookes; Roehampton; Royal Holloway; Sheffield Hallam; Staffordshire; Surrey; and West London. Perhaps we could suggest that these be listed as our true ‘competitor institutions’ in future admissions strategy meetings?
The DfE statement has had an impact. Aston University reports that it ‘has taken the decision to stop making ‘conditional unconditional’ offers’:
Roehampton announced on 4 April that, after a review, ‘we no longer offer ‘conditional unconditional’ offers. We also continue to ensure that at every stage of the application process our admissions policies are clear, fair and in the best interests of students’:
At Lancaster, however, we’re having none of this defeatist talk. Our press release, as reported in the Lancaster Guardian, states that, ‘there are various assertions within the DfE statement that we do not recognise nor do we feel are backed up by evidence. We don’t practise ‘pressure selling’ tactics and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from applicants about our approach to offers. We will, of course, consider all advice carefully and will continue to assess our position.’
subtext understands that, having assessed our position, we are still intending to make conditional unconditional offers next year. Over to you, Office for Students!