I have been applying to some summer programs for undergraduates recently and I am seeing that some of them do not send rejection letters or emails, and instead only notify accepted applicants. I was wondering how wide spread of a practice this is in academia, meaning do graduate schools do this, do grants do this, et cetera?
Based on rumor, it is quite common not to send rejection letters at American universities. I would expect that this happens at a substantially higher rate for undergraduate summer research programs because they have an exceptionally high ratio of applications to funding. At many universities, the summer research programs are more competitive than the PhD programs but have zero administrative staff. PhD programs, postdoctoral positions, and faculty positions also may not send rejections. For some jobs, one will also find that nobody was hired at all.
Some Australian universities have an official no rejection letter policy.
I definitely recommend sending rejection letters, particularly if applicants paid an application fee.
All graduate programs with which I have been associated do send rejection letters. The same holds for all grants I have sought or reviewed. Paper submissions also receive rejection letters. The only exceptions I am aware of are some contests, such as the Royal Society Publishing Photo Competition.
tl;dr My problem is that I receive too many rejection letters, not too few.
Yes it is common. Unfortunately universities need to deal with rejections in a politically correct manner (to don't get sued). Believe it or not, giving rejection letters is very hard for universities, and mostly need to be deal with or go through human resources. So because there are limited resources at the human resources department to deal with internal and external issues, sometimes the rejection letters are not sent, or just simply ignored somewhere in the pipeline.
I recently applied for two jobs at Cambridge and one at Oxford, and I did not receive any rejection letter.