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Universities must not sacrifice quality for ‘inflated intakes’, regulator warns

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Universities and colleges must not sacrifice quality for “inflated intakes” amid a rise in applications and plans for teacher-assessed grades, the higher education watchdog has warned.

The Office for Students (OfS) has heard of cases this year where large numbers of “unconditional offers” – where a degree place is offered regardless of final results – have been made to prospective students.

Universities must ensure that students starting this autumn are not left disappointed because “over-recruitment” has reduced the quality of their course, the chief executive of the OfS has urged.

The warning over university admissions came after the Government confirmed that teachers in England will decide pupils’ A-level grades this summer after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said universities are “likely to have many well-qualified students to choose from” following a surge in applications and the introduction of teacher assessment.

It is vital that students starting this autumn do not face further disappointment because the quality of their course is reduced by over-recruitment and poor organisation

But she said talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds should not “lose out” because of this.

In a blog on the OfS website, Ms Dandridge said universities and colleges may need to look beyond the grades of disadvantaged students to understand the context in which those grades have been achieved.

Ucas data shows that a record 42.6% of all UK 18-year-olds had applied to university by the main deadline in January, up from 39.5% last year.

Ms Dandridge said: “It is vital that students starting this autumn do not face further disappointment because the quality of their course is reduced by over-recruitment and poor organisation.

“Universities and colleges need to plan wisely to ensure that all students have a high-quality experience. The Office for Students will also use its powers to step in where this is not the case.”

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