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Understanding the Conditional Offers Process at UK Universities

Paul Teulon is the Director of Admissions at King’s College London, rated as one of the world’s top 20 universities. King’s is considered by the sector to have a proactive stance on the IB Diploma Programme, and is extremely popular with IB students due to the interdisciplinary and international nature of its programmes. Over 500 IBDP students placed King’s as their Firm this year alone making it one of the first choices for IBDP students in the UK.


Guest Blog Post: Paul Teulon

This blog post is designed to support IB teachers and counsellors to better understand the confirmation process of conditional offers at UK universities. It also hopes to provide an insight as to why there may be a gap between the release of qualifications and a final decision being made.

Given the internationalised nature of Higher Education, students now apply with a range of different qualifications from across the globe. Unsurprisingly, these qualifications do not all follow the same pattern of exam date and result publication dates. Given that most UK universities make conditional offers to their applicants, this can create a number of challenges. The results from high school equivalent qualifications may be received by universities as early as June, or as late as the end of August. UK universities are experienced at processing these different types of results, and supporting a range of students. Universities do however always need to operate a fair and transparent admissions service that ensures equity and parity for those with early results, and those with results at the very end of the period.

When will your students know that they have met the terms of their offer?

Students who have met all conditions of their offer

Students who have met all the terms of their offer, both academic and English Language, should be confirmed soon after the publication of their results. You can help your students by ensuring that the university receives their official results promptly; some are sent through the UCAS, but others need to be sent directly to the university.  Universities will be delighted to confirm their place on the course as soon as they can, and we will notify them through UCAS. Universities can then continue to support applicants who require visa sponsorship.

Students who have met their academic conditions, but are waiting for English language results

For most of these students, universities will need to wait for their English language results to have a complete picture of the students’ situation before making a decision (see below). Please help universities by encouraging your applicants to send their proficiency test results to as soon as they have them.

On occasion, if an applicant is falling below the academic conditions of their offer, the university may unfortunately feel that they are unable to offer the place, and will endeavour to let the student know their status as soon as possible.

Students who have received their exam results, but who have not met the conditions of their offer

Universities know that students in this position will be anxious, and will want clarity on their position as soon as possible. However, for those who have missed their conditions, perhaps only very marginally, the student may need to wait several weeks before they can be confirmed. This is because when making decisions on ‘near miss’ students, universities must consider carefully other students who have missed their grades to decide – both in terms of spaces, but importantly also on the abilities of the cohort – whom a university can confirm, and whom unfortunately a university may need to issue unsuccessful decisions for. To do this, universities often have to wait until the main bulk of exam results (A-Levels are received in mid-August) to fully understand the grade profile of our offer holders.

There may be some courses, and some ‘near misses,’ where the university is confident that they can still make a fair decision to ‘early results’ students without in any way disadvantaging those receiving their results in August. For the majority of offer holders though, please help the university prepare your students by asking for patience until the mid-August exam period.

Counsellors and teachers who would like to further understand some of the equity issues around confirming ‘near misses’ for students receiving grades at different times can see the ‘worked example’ below.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of your students the best of luck with their results.

 

Paul Teulon

Director of Admissions

King’s College London

 

Worked Example

UCAS requires most students to choose their Firm and Insurance choice universities by early June. At this stage in the cycle, a university would ideally hold more Firm choice students than the number of places available on that programme, often defined by the size of a lecture theatre. The rationale here is that not all students will meet the terms of their offers, which is not uncommon, and some students, despite achieving the grades, will hold offers outside of UCAS in other countries, and will not enrol in the UK programmes. Therefor,e a university might have a Firm:Place ratio of, as an example, 130:100.

  • Number of Firm students: 130
  • Number of Places: 100

The vast majority of UK students are taking A-levels, the results of which are published in mid-August. Depending on the university and the programme, these can account for up to 90% of the students. In this example below, for simplicity, we are going to assume that there is only one type of other qualification, and that is the International Baccalaureate.

  • Number of Firm A-level students: 130 * 90% = 117
  • Number of Firm IB students: 130 * 10% = 13

It is also assumed that the proportion of students who will miss their offers is equal in the two populations at around 77% (100/130). From this we can assume that the following number of students will make their offers.

  • Number of Firm A-level students who will make their offers: 117 * 77% = 90
  • Number of IB Firm students who will make their offers: 13 * 77% = 10

The IB results are published in early July, around six weeks before the A-level results.

Nine of the IB students meet all the conditions of their offers, and these students are confirmed shortly after the publication of their results. Unfortunately, four students narrowly miss their grades.

Should the university confirm these students at this time, and if so, how many?

The challenge for the university is that the following situation is currently in play.

  • Maximum number of Firm A-level students who could make their offer: 117
  • Number of IB students still being considered: 13 – 9 = 4
  • Total: 121
  • Number of places remaining on the programme: 100 – 9 = 91

Therefore there is still the potential that the programme could over-recruit by 26 (117+9) students and this would make it very uncomfortable in the lecture theatre, and the student experience overall will be harmed. Although this is an unlikely result, there is always a risk of this occurring, or a softer version, in which between 126 and 101 students make their offer.

The A-level results are published and there are a number of scenarios:

A)     88 of the 117 A-level students achieve their offer. 29 of the A-level students are near miss candidates. Now of the 100 places (88 GCE + 9 IB), 97 places have been filled, there are only three vacancies. The university will now compare the 29 A-level and 4 IB students to see which three it feels are most deserving of the place on the programme. One might assume that one IB and 2 A-level students, or some other combination, are then Confirmed.
B)      91 of the 117 A-level students achieve their offer. With 9 IB students already confirmed, the programme is now full. No dropped grade students will then be Confirmed and will be passed to their Insurance choice.

As you can see the ‘meet offer rate’ of the A-level students does not need to change much at all for the different scenarios to develop, 75% v 77% in this example.

The example numbers in this document are just that, but are based within the realms of reality for a competitive admissions programme. We hope that this worked example demonstrates some of the practical challenges of working with multiple exam release dates, whilst maintaining fairness and equity in admissions.

Ensuring your students and our offer holders receive clear and fair decisions from us is of utmost priority.

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2 Responses to Understanding the Conditional Offers Process at UK Universities

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