Oxbridge: What does the offer mean?

As the leading two UK universities, Cambridge and Oxford, or Oxbridge as they are collectively known, are the desired next step for many young people. Even though applications are made through UCAS along with other university applications, the format of the application and the subsequent process are slightly different.

Completing an application through UCAS before the October 15 deadline was just the first step, as both universities require more time to process their applications that the other universities. This is due to the pre-offer interviews and assessments that take place.

At Cambridge, 80% of applicants are invited for interview in the period before offers are announced. Whereas, Oxford make more use of pre-interview tests and then use these to shortlist applicants who were invited to interview in December.

Oxford University offers

Applicants to Oxford University are shortlisted and then those are interviewed. If your son or daughter was interviewed they should hear the result on January 7, 2015 either by letter or email. Any offer they receive may have conditions applied to it.

Conditional offer — this is the most common type of offer given to those still in full-time study, as the key examinations needed to be eligible for most courses haven’t been completed yet. Thus the offer is given conditional to achieving certain grades in those subjects.

Unconditional offer — an offer may be unconditional if the applicant has already completed those examinations required. This is because they will already have the grades that are needed so can be accepted immediately.

Any offer may be from a specific college, which may be the college specified in the application or from one of the other colleges. Alternatively, the offer may be left open. In this situation, the conditional or unconditional offer is guaranteed for the university but the college itself is left unconfirmed. This will be decided once all the exam results are published in August. In this case, where an applicant meets all the conditions set out in their offer then they will be guaranteed a place at the university but may need to be flexible about which college they attend.

Cambridge University offers

For those who applied to Cambridge University, most will have been interviewed and offers should be received before the end of January. As with Oxford, the offer may have conditions attached.

Conditional offer — this is the most common type used so that particular results in GCE examinations can be specified along with STEP examination results for mathematics or mathematics related subjects. For some subjects, applicants may have also had to take a test during interview, the results of which will also help decide who will be offered places.

Unconditional offer — applicants who have already met the course conditions and achieved acceptable grades may receive unconditional offers.

For those unsuccessful in the first round of offers, there may be a second chance. Some applicants are placed into the winter pool. This is where colleges identify potential students that would have been offered places if there had been room. These applicants information is passed onto the other colleges so that they might consider them as well. Other colleges may invite the applicant for an interview, which would be during the second week of January, or they may be offered a place without another interview. The results of this process should be made available by the end of January alongside any other offers. This means that an applicant may not be aware that they have been in the pool until they get an email asking them to attend another interview or an offer from a different college to the one they applied to.

What happens after the offers are received?

Assuming at least one of the offers is acceptable, applicants need to accept their preferred offer through UCAS formally. However, you can only complete this part of your application once all of your offers have been received. Once the last offer has come in, you’ll receive an update either by email or letter from UCAS and then you can log in and accept the offers through the UCAS website.

If an unconditional offer is accepted it then the applicant will be accepted onto that course without any further input or actions needed. The new student will be expected to attend the following year and information will be forthcoming nearer the time from the university or college. There is nothing more that needs to be done at this stage.

If a conditional offer is the preferred choice, then it can be accepted firmly but will be dependent on meeting those conditions set out in the offer. This means that the applicant will need to get the at least as good grades as set out in the offer. The offer may be challenging to reach or not, depending on the individual. Therefore, it is advisable to choose an insurance or second choice offer in case these grades are not achieved. This insurance offer can be conditional or unconditional. Normally, an insurance conditional offer would be lower than the first choice. If the applicant holds an unconditional offer as insurance then this will guarantee getting a place on a course however holding a conditional insurance offer doesn’t guarantee a place unless those grades are achieved.

The deadline to accept offers is dependent on when the last offer or rejection is received. If all offers are received prior to the end of March, the deadline is May 6, 2015. Offers that haven’t been accepted or declined by the appropriate deadline are automatically declined by UCAS.

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