He said: “Unconditional offers have long played a legitimate role, for example in ‘portfolio’ subjects such as Fine Art. But this very steep rise in their use across a much wider range of subjects is disturbing.
“This [Ucas] report shows that many students could be distracted from the final year of their schooling, and achieve A Level grades lower than they are capable of. These are effects that we know can have a significant impact on their career. “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.”
In its report, published today, the trade union argues that the system of making unconditional offers for students with predicted grades is associated with poorer student outcomes and “unethically” sways the student decision making process.
It repeated its findings of June 2018, in which it revealed that of the higher education systems in 30 countries, England, Northern Ireland and Wales are the only ones where admissions to higher education are based on predictions of achievement rather than actual performance.
It suggests that a new system should be implemented, where A-level students make their university applications in the first week of August, after their exam results have been published.
Applicants would then receive decisions in mid-September and be placed by the end of the month, ready to begin their first year of university in November.
Proposals for a post-qualification admissions system were put forward by Ucas in 2012 but were eventually dropped over concerns it would cut sixth-form teaching time and undermine the quality of exam marking.
However, the UCU has argued that changes to the education system since then, including the removal of the cap on student numbers and the increase in fees, means that the proposals should be revisited.