Image of students picking up their results

 by Chris Rogers
, posted On 28 Dec '20
 Student Recruitment and Outreach Officer at the University of Chichester

A school and college guide to university decisions and offers

After the long process of students researching, visiting and applying to universities, they will begin to receive their offers. Here is a simple guide to what each offer means in the run up to the UCAS deadline!

Unconditional Offer

This offer usually means that the student has met the university entry requirements for the course and should they accept the offer, will have a confirmed place at the university.

Conditional Offer

This is where the student will need to achieve specific grades or meet other conditions in order to secure their place at the university.

A conditional offer may mean a student is asked to achieve certain grades e.g. ABB at A-Level, DMM in BTEC or 28 Points in the International Baccalaureate; or it could be achieving a specific number of UCAS points (all of these can be found on individual institution websites and on the UCAS website).


This unfortunately means that the student does not meet the entry requirements or is not predicted to. Therefore, they have not been offered a place with the university. Sometimes the student will be given a reason. They can also contact the university to ask if they will discuss their reason with them.


Students may be invited to interview and/or audition before they are made an offer. Interviews are used more commonly for vocational and highly subscribed courses. Auditions are for those creative courses such as Theatre, Music and Dance.

Contextualised Offers

Something else that may be used in decision making processes at universities is contextualised offers. A student may meet other criteria often referred to as contextualised admissions, where universities use data to asses an applicant’s prior attainment and individual circumstances. There may be factors such as an individual having been in care, participation data of their home neighbourhood or other qualifying information.

Image of a student thinking about their university choices

Responding to university offers

After having been made all of their offers, students will be asked to respond accordingly.

Firm acceptance

This is the course and university they most want to attend. Grades for this choice are usually higher than their insurance choice.

Insurance acceptance

A student’s insurance choice is their back up should they not get the grades they have been predicted. This is usually a lower offer than their firm choice

Teachers, careers colleagues and support staff: request your FREE UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University brochure.

This brochure has been produced by in collaboration with HELOA - to support the university guidance that is provided in secondary schools and colleges.

Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities and higher education institutions throughout the UK. On topics covering how to support students with their university decisions, university events, widening participation & fair access, UCAS applications (including writing school references) and more. It also includes the key student finance facts from Martin Lewis.

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