University of Reading makes flexible grade offer
A UK university is making "safety net" offers to students applying for places for next year - which would guarantee admission even if they missed by one A-level grade.
Reading University's stress-reducing offer is the latest example of the competition to attract students.
The university sees it as a more "honest" approach to applications.
A University of Reading spokesman said it reflected a "very aggressive, competitive undergraduate market".
With the removal of limits on student numbers and a demographic dip in 18-year-olds, there is intense competition between universities, which last year accepted more than half a million students.
This has seen a growth in "unconditional offers", where universities try to tempt applicants with an offer of a place regardless of the exam grades eventually achieved.
Universities have run advertising campaigns and marketing events and provided incentives such as free tablet computers, as well as offering scholarships and bursaries.
Mary Curnock Cook, head of the Ucas admissions service, said last week that more than half of students accepted on to degree courses last year had missed their required results by two or more grades.
She also warned some teachers were "over-predicting" applicants' grades to improve their chances of university offers.
University vice-chancellor and former Universities Minister Bill Rammell has said it would be fairer for the admissions process to take place after students have their A-level results.
There have also been concerns about the reliability of predicted grades when GCSE and A-level qualifications are being overhauled.
A University of Reading spokesman said: "We've had record intakes and applications in the last two years, but we can't afford to stand still.
"More strategic, targeted offer-making is the reality of a very aggressive, competitive undergraduate market.
"Universities are not wrapped in cotton wool any more by student number caps - we need to be much more proactive.
"Every application is judged equally and individually on merit.
"We are piloting new approaches to drive up the number of firm acceptances, convert students who may otherwise have put us as insurance and to make sure we attract high-calibre students."