There has been a huge rise in unconditional offers made by universities to students before they have completed their qualifications at school, new figures from Ucas show.
According to the university admissions service, the number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-old students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales has risen substantially over the past five years – from 2,985 in 2013, to 67,915 in 2018.
In 2018, 7.1 per cent of all offers made to students were unconditional.
This year, more than a fifth of 18-year-old applicants (22.9 per cent) received at least one unconditional offer.
Scotland was not included in the analysis because a substantial proportion of students aged 18 who apply through Ucas have already attained Scottish Highers and met the academic requirements to enter higher education.
When universities make an offer, it can be either conditional or unconditional. Conditional offers usually specify the grades a student needs to achieve in their A levels, BTECs or other qualifications to be accepted on to a course. But unconditional offers do not specify any further academic requirements that the student needs to meet.
While unconditional offers can reduce the stress during the exam period, some people have warned that their increasing use could lead to more pupils disengaging from their studies.
Helen Thorne, director of external relations at Ucas, said: "Students should take the time to carefully think about all their options fully before accepting an unconditional offer. Information and advice on the Ucas website highlights the key points students need to think about before accepting any offer.
"While unconditional offers are made for a number of reasons, we believe that universities should always emphasise to students the importance of completing their studies to the best of their abilities.
"This will help make sure they’re well prepared for their degree course, and for future employment.
"Later this year, we’ll be publishing more-detailed analysis of offer-making, including any impact on students’ attainment."