Sheffield’s universities caught in debate over unconditional offers

Sheffield’s two universities have today been on opposite sides in the debate surrounding unconditional offers.

UCAS figures have revealed that one third of 18-year-old applicants received unconditional offers from universities last year.

England’s Education Secretary Damian Hinds voiced his concern at the statistic.

“The systematic use of unconditional offers is not in the interest of students and they should not be used just to get people through the door,” he said.

The city’s largest university, Sheffield Hallam admitted it had handed out hundreds of unconditional offers to the cohort of over 7,000 undergraduates it recruited last year, but defended the university’s policy.

Sheffield Hallam’s Vice Chancellor Prof Chris Husbands said: “We don’t use them to put bums on seats, in the minister’s phrase, we use them to position ourselves at the top end of the attainment range and attract a high calibre of students.

“These are students who are going to university, and I want them to come here and not to a university down the road.”

On the other side of the city centre, the University of Sheffield only gives out conditional offers to students who are yet to receive their exam results.

Director of Recruitment at the University of Sheffield, Dr Christina Edgar believes conditional offers help students to deal with the academic rigour of university.

She said: “It’s going to be important for students once they come to university to thrive under the conditions of university and that includes working to deadlines and that sense of pressure and the importance of doing well in exams and other types of assessments.

“We think it helps prepare students well so that they can demonstrate that they can meet those levels of attainment.

“The UCAS data today confirms that students with an offer of that type are more likely to do less well and so we think it’s really important for students to strive for the best they can.”