Receiving and Responding to Higher Education Offers – A Guide for Teachers


When Will Learners Hear Back from Their Chosen Institutions?

The Uni Guide offers a useful article on how long learners can expect to wait to hear back from the higher education institutions (HEIs) they have applied to. As you might expect, the key message is that it depends on the institution and the course, but this might at the very least calm any worries that learners may have, particularly when they’re still waiting for some responses while their friends received all of theirs months ago.

Obviously, in the present situation it is likely that any outstanding offers may take longer than usual to come through, as many admissions officers are now working from home and adjusting to new or amended processes. If a learner is particularly concerned about the status of their application, or they applied very early in the current cycle and still haven’t received a response, they could try contacting the institution directly, although they should bear in mind that response times and call waiting times may well be slower than usual.

It’s interesting to note that UCAS has twice extended the moratorium on HEIs changing existing offers or granting new unconditional offers, amid concerns that learners might feel unnecessarily pressured into making a choice that was wrong for them. This may delay proceedings for any applicants still awaiting offers.

What Types of Offers Could My Learners Receive?

There are three main types of offers that institutions can make to applicants:

Conditional – the institution has offered a place to the applicant, but certain conditions must be met. These will usually be exam results.

Unconditional – the institution is satisfied and the place is there for the taking! However, there may be still be some addition criteria to meet, such as a successful DBS check for a teaching or healthcare course.

Unsuccessful – the institution has decided not to offer the applicant a place on this occasion. However, if a learner is set on that particular course and institution and thinks they may meet the entry requirements in the future, they could look to re-apply in next year’s cycle.

Although generally less common, there are two other possibilities:

Alternative Offer – the institution has chosen not to offer a place on the specific course, but may still see merit in the applicant. The alternative offer could be a foundation course, or an alternative course they feel the applicant might be better suited to. It is important for the learner to read about the alternative offer in more detail and consider whether it is right for them.

Withdrawn – the institution (or the applicants, in some instances) has withdrawn the offer. This could be the case if a course is no longer due to run, for example.

You can take a look at this article from UCAS for further details on different offers.

How Do Learners Decide Which Offers to Accept, and How Can I Support Them to Make That Choice?

Generally, applicants will choose one firm choice (their preferred institution and course) and one insurance choice (an institution and course they would still be happy to attend if they do not meet the conditions of their first choice). However, the UCAS Advisor Guide highlights that applicants don’t have to hold an insurance choice if they do not feel that any of their other offers would be a good fit. This would allow them a smooth release into Clearing, and avoid an awkward situation trying to negotiate their way out of an offer they don’t want.

UCAS has produced this article summarising all the key considerations for learners when making those all-important decisions, including a concise flowchart. Their key advice? Make sure it’s somewhere that you want to go!

The Complete University Guide also has a really useful article on responding to offers, which is refreshingly free from jargon. It considers how learners might decide on their firm and insurance choices, taking into account factors such as the grades they might get. However, it only covers conditional offers dilemmas, not unconditional ones.

Unconditional offers can make the decision-making process even more complicated. On the one hand, they may relieve some of the pressures for learners who are anxiously awaiting results, but on the other they can push learners into accepting an option that is not right for them. To help them to make those key decisions, UCAS has written a helpful blog which spells out some of the key considerations when considering an unconditional offer.

How Can Learners Respond to Any Offers They Have Received?

From a technical point of view, UCAS has this handy guide on how (and when) learners can respond to offers, and what to do if they make a mistake. It also has a useful table showing when applicants need to respond to their offers depending on when they’ve received them. However, bear in mind it hasn’t yet been updated with the new response date for those who received all their offers before the 31st March 2020.

Need More Help?

Have you had any more questions from learners that you’d like a helping hand to answer?

If you do, don’t forget that we’re here to help! Just drop us an email, and we’ll do our best to find the answer for you!