A UNIVERSITY in York offered nearly 80 per cent of its places on an unconditional basis, it has emerged.

Data revealed by the UK’s University Admission Service (UCAS) for York St John University showed that in 2018 some 78.8 per cent of offers, or 4,645 places, were unconditional.

Such offers mean that a student has been accepted by the university regardless of the outcome of A-level results.

The data released by UCAS revealed that 20 universities, including Nottingham Trent, University of Birmingham, University of Brighton and York St John University were offering the bulk of unconditional offers.

One in three sixth formers now receive an unconditional offer, with a total of 117,000 distributed in 2018, up from just 3,000 in 2013.

The Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of higher education in England, said unconditional offers were not in the best interests of students and that it expected too see a change to the approach taken by universities.

A spokesman said: “There may be some good reasons why universities make unconditional offers to particular students, so we would not necessarily expect to see a blanket halt on the practice. But whatever admissions practices universities choose to use, they should clearly be encouraging students to make the decision that is right for them, and not the decision that best suits the university. Where unconditional offers are not in students’ and applicants’ best interests, we expect to see universities changing their approach.”

Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said: “It’s crucial that students can make well-informed choices. UCAS is here to provide step-by-step support, to help them make the right decisions for their future, including advice on unconditional offers. We’ve also issued good practice guides to support universities and colleges to make unconditional offers responsibly.”

In a statement, York St John said that for 2019 it would reduce the numbers of unconditional offers by half.

A spokesman said: “Our students, many of whom come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in universities, report a positive university experience, high levels of support and enjoy strong employment outcomes.

“For 2019 entry, we have introduced a new contextual offer scheme that targets our unconditional offers to better support students who face the greatest barriers to entering Higher Education, whilst reducing the number of unconditional offers we make by more than half.

“We previously made unconditional offers based on applicants’ predicted grades and offered scholarships to encourage applicants to work to their full potential. We have never made offers dependent on applicants making us their firm choice, a practice criticised by the Office for Students as pressure selling. Instead, we made offers in an open way that gave applicants a straight choice about whether we were the right university for them.

“Students have told us that our unconditional offers have helped reduce the stress they feel leading into exams. We have seen no significant difference in first year attainment between students who come to us through conditional offers and those who come through unconditional offers."