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Universities urged to pause unconditional offers for two weeks

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay

By Abbianca Makoni, PA

Universities are being urged to act "responsibly" and in the best interests of students by refraining from changing entry requirements for the next two weeks.

The call came after schools across the UK went on lockdown on Monday and pupils were told that teacher assessments would help grade their GCSE and A-levels after exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said a small number of institutions have changed a significant proportion of offers to undergraduate students, from conditional to unconditional, in a bid to maximise their intake.

She said this risked "destabilising" the admissions system, increasing financial uncertainty and volatility for institutions.

"As universities seek to secure attendance for the next academic year, I would ask them to refrain from changing existing offers to unconditional offers as it risks destabilising the entire admissions system.

"We must also look out for students too, who in these uncertain times may be feeling anxious about their futures. I want to reassure students that we will provide them with the grades they need.

"No student should feel pressured into making a quick decision which may end up not being in their best interest."

Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge said it is "critical" that universities and colleges put student interests first in "difficult" times.

She added that exams regulator Ofqual is developing a fair way of issuing A-level grades which should provide reassurance to students.

"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," Ms Dandridge warned.

Pupils across the UK have already taken to Twitter under the hashtag #SchoolclosuresUK to share their frustrations on how exams could be graded, with some afraid that poor relationships with teachers could affect their final mark.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said students will be given more time to make decisions about their future.

"Normally most students would have until early May to make decisions on their offers, but in line with the Government announcement this deadline will be extended by two weeks.

"Universities and colleges will also have additional time to assess applications and adjust their processes in these unprecedented times."

She said students will be emailed this week with information on their new May decision deadline, to ensure they understand they have additional time over the coming weeks to make their decisions.