University of Hertfordshire among institutions told to end ‘unacceptable, unethical’ admissions practices

The University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield. Picture: Danny Loo

The University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

University of Hertfordshire (UH) is being urged by Education Secretary Damian Hinds to review “unacceptable” and “unethical” admission practices.

Mr Hinds has written to 23 universities, including Hatfield-based UH, telling them to stop ‘conditional unconditional’ offers, which he says harm student attainment and could breach consumer protection laws.

A ‘conditional unconditional’ offer informs students that they are guaranteed a place, but only if they put the university as their first option.

Mr Hinds says they are “backing students into a corner” to accept a place at their institution, preventing them from exploring other options that could be more suitable.

Three others institutions that made conditional unconditional offers in the 2018 recruitment cycle have recently decided to end the practice.

A spokesperson from the University of Hertfordshire said: “In 2018/19 the University of Hertfordshire issued offers that had an unconditional element, in line with other universities in the sector.

“We review our admissions policy annually and will consider sector guidance and the points made in the Education Secretary’s letter this week when deciding our policy for the 2020 recruitment cycle.”

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In 2018, 34.4 per cent of 18-year-olds from England, Northern Ireland and Wales received an offer with an unconditional component, compared with 1.1 per cent in 2013.

This amounts to 87,540 applicants given some form of unconditional offer before they sat their final exams at school or college.

Mr Hinds says a full review of university admissions is required to end practices used by some institutions to lure students into accepting higher education places through “pressure selling tactics”.

He said: “‘Conditional unconditional’ offers are damaging the reputation of the institutions involved and our world-leading sector as a whole... But I am concerned about the wider picture of how some universities are getting students through their doors, so I am asking the (Office for Students) to look at how well current admissions practices serve students and how they can be improved, so we can protect the integrity of our higher education system.”