Unconditional offers policy statement

In recent years, a number of universities have begun to make Unconditional offers to applicants who have not yet completed their entry qualifications. Up to a third of applicants are now receiving an Unconditional offer. Such offers are designed to encourage applicants to accept the offer (some of the offers are dependent on applicants selecting the university as their Firm choice), and to provide a guarantee to applicants at a stressful and unsettling time.

At the University of Sheffield, we have decided not to issue Unconditional offers in these circumstances. We only make Unconditional offers to applicants who have already completed their entry qualifications, and achieved results that demonstrate they are prepared for their course.

UCAS research has indicated that applicants receiving pre-qualification Unconditional offers are more likely to miss their predicted grades, suggesting that Unconditional offers disincentivise good performance in entry qualifications. Students will be challenged when they are studying for their degree, and working hard to achieve the best possible results at Level 3 (A Level and equivalent) will provide them with knowledge, study skills and confidence that will be invaluable to them at university. We want our students to have the strongest possible foundation upon which to build a successful degree.

Furthermore, achievement in Level 3 qualifications is not only necessary for admission to university, but is also a factor considered by graduate employers. We want our graduates to have the best chance of securing a good job, and do not want them to be disadvantaged by Level 3 achievement lower than they were capable of.

Finally, pre-qualification Unconditional offers can distort applicant decision-making. We want applicants to choose Sheffield because our course, University and city is the right choice for them, and we offer a range of activities and resources to help them decide whether or not that is the case. This includes a comprehensive introduction to the University online, school visits, a full open day programme including the option to stay overnight in University accommodation, and phone calls from current students offering a flavour of what life at Sheffield is really like.

We have also launched a suite of Access Sheffield policies to help us identify all applicants with the potential to succeed at the University, even where they may not be expected to meet our standard course entry requirements. Depending on an applicant's educational, social and personal circumstances, we may be able to give their application additional consideration when we receive it and when exam results are released, and we may be able to issue an alternative offer lower than our standard requirements.