Complaints as post-offer grade inflation leaves pupils without 2010 places

May 6, 2010

A university has admitted inflating the offers it has made to applicants midway through the admissions cycle, blaming the move on the pressure on places this summer.

De Montfort University said it had written to a number of students to amend offers it had made, setting tougher requirements on the grades they must achieve to secure their places. One parent who spoke to Times Higher Education said her daughter had lost her "insurance" choice as a result.

The pupil was made an offer in January by De Montfort on the condition she achieve 240 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service points - equivalent to three grade Cs at A level.

But while she was waiting to hear back from other universities, De Montfort wrote to the student again, saying that the 240 points must include at least two Bs.

The parent, who asked not to be identified, said this meant her daughter would be left without a place if she did not manage to meet her predicted grades this summer.

She said the practice of inflating existing offers was "unethical".

A spokeswoman for Ucas said it was within universities' rights to change their conditions after an offer had been made, but it was not "best practice". "It is fair to say that the changing environment in which higher education institutions are working, combined with a well-publicised increase in applicant numbers and constraints on the number of places available, has led to a number of institutions having to review their admissions policies," she said.

A De Montfort spokeswoman said the university had had to "implement a measured strategy" to meet the government-imposed cap on numbers.

"We are not increasing tariff points in our offers but have written to a number of students to amend their original offers by including specific conditions," she said.

"It is always our intention to offer the opportunity to experience a university education to as many people who have the potential to benefit from it as possible, but in a time of unprecedented applications, we must ensure our overall enrolments remain within the target set by the government."

Universities have also been accused by schools of raising their entry requirements after students had applied for places.

Rob Ferguson, senior A-level tutor at Newham Sixth Form College in East London, said that "in a significant number of cases", the entry requirements set in offers to students were higher than the criteria advertised on the Ucas website and universities' own sites.

Some students had found all the offers they received were "out of reach, or at the very maximum they're likely to achieve".

While universities have always varied offers on a case-by-case basis, this year there were discrepancies for "whole cohorts of students", he said.

Students had been left feeling that "the rules of the game had been changed halfway through", he added.

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