19 Aug 2011

Students scramble for university places

A record number of students are fighting for university places through the clearing system after getting their A-level results on Thursday.

Students scramble for university places through clearing (Getty)

The clearing system is designed to mop up those students who did not make the grades for their chosen universities or did not get offers, and match them up to courses where there are still places.

But there is record demand for the service this year as students scramble to get into higher education before the rise in tuition fees hits in 2012.

After another rise in the pass rate on A-level results day, universities admissions service Ucas said there are 189,992 students eligible for clearing – but only around 29,409 courses. Many universities and popular courses are already full. Last year, there were 185,223 students eligible, and 47,000 of them got places at university through the system.

The shortfall means that many would-be students will be disappointed, but in a bid to reassure them Universities Minister David Willetts said “there isn’t only one chance in life”.

FactCheck: Is there extra capacity for desperate students? 

Not only one chance

He said: “I’d say to them: look there isn’t only one chance in life, you can carry on taking new opportunities and applying again next year. The opportunities you may have for perhaps studying part time with apprenticeships you can keep on aiming to fulfil your dreams.

“Looking to the future, when we look at the reforms we’re bringing in in 2012, remember: if people do go to university in 2012 they will have higher maintenance loans, higher maintenance grants, they will be repaying less per month, so that is an option that is available to people.

“And if they haven’t quite got the grades they wanted this year then of course they should look at strengthening their grades, getting some more experience. And yes I hope they will reapply for next year.”

He said Ucas had told him that there were 40,000 or so places in clearing for students and said overall there had only been around a 1 per cent rise in applications this year.

At midday on Thursday, Ucas said that 57.6 per cent of the 682,367 people who applied for university places had already been accepted, an increase on last year.

But anxious students checking whether they had made it caused the organisation’s website to crash for much of Thursday morning. The website had four times as much traffic as in 2010.