UK Universities Urged to Stop Unethical Admissions Practice

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. breach / briːtʃ / (v) – to violate a law or rule

    The employee was sued because he breached the employment contract.

  2. prospect / ˈprɑːˌspɛkt / (n) – an opportunity for the future

    The student applied to many universities to make sure that he will have a lot of prospects.

  3. complacent / kəmˈpleɪsn̩t / (adj) – satisfied with the current state of things and not striving for improvement

    I always tell my students to continue studying hard and never be complacent even when they get high grades.

  4. give a bad name to (someone/something) / gɪv ə bæd neɪm tuː / (idiom) – to destroy the reputation of someone or something

    The doctor’s illegal activities give a bad name to the hospital.

  5. penalize / ˈpiːnəˌlaɪz / (v) – to punish someone for violating a law

    The school penalizes teachers who do not submit reports on time.


Read the text below.

UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds demanded that universities stop unacceptable admission practices.

According to a report, universities have been making “conditional unconditional offers” to university applicants. These offers are made to guarantee students a slot in universities. If students accept an offer from a university, they have to make that particular institution their primary choice. In 2018, 66,315 students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales reportedly received “conditional unconditional offers.”

The offers may have breached consumer protection laws, according to Hinds. Under the laws, sellers are prohibited from unduly influencing consumers’ decision-making process. Hinds believes that the offers pressure students into accepting a slot in a university and prevent them from considering other prospects.

Aside from being potentially illegal, the offers also affect students’ motivation and desire for achievement. Several head teachers reported that some students tend to be complacent about their grades after accepting the “conditional unconditional offers.”

In addition, the offers also give a bad name to the universities involved. If the offers were proven to be illegal, the universities could be penalized or deregistered.

The University of Birmingham is one of the schools that extend such offers. Its representative asserted that the university’s practice is perfectly legal and does not pressure students into accepting the offers. The school also claims that students who received the offers often receive good grades.

While the University of Kent used to give out the same offers, it decided to discontinue the practice. The university’s applicants scored well in the A levels, an examination that UK students have to take to be qualified for universities. However, their scores were not as high as the university anticipated.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• If you were a student, would you accept “conditional unconditional offers?” Why or why not?
• What do you think are some possible reasons why universities resort to giving out “conditional unconditional offers?” Speculate.

Discussion B

• Do you think it is acceptable for students to become complacent about their grades? Explain.
• What strategies can universities employ to ensure that students continue to strive for good academic performance?