Ucas: 60,000 university places still to be filled
About 60,000 places remain at UK universities this year, with 419,000 students already accepted, the admissions body says.
Ucas head Mary Curnock-Cook said 13,000 students had been placed in clearing, where they hoped to enter a course which still had vacancies.
About 64,000 students were waiting to hear if their places had been confirmed.
She said the Ucas website received 644 hits per second on Thursday.
The unprecedented demand on the website prompted Ucas to take down some parts of it, but Mrs Curnock-Cook said "critical systems were 100% available all the time".
These included the clearing vacancy search and the application service for clearing which opened as expected at 18:00 BST on Thursday.
The Ucas telephone helpline reopened at 09:00 BST.
Clearing is the system whereby those who fail to achieve the necessary grades or did not get offered a place, can request one of the remaining places.
However, there are fewer clearing places available this year as universities accept more applicants directly.
This year's university applications are the highest ever, at 682,000 (including international students), in the last year before many UK universities raise tuition fees nearly threefold.
The number of applicants is about 1% higher than last year, Mrs Curnock-Cook said.
But the total number of places available is the same as last year.
Mrs Curnock-Cook said some students may need to consider reapplying next year.
"I think everyone knows that clearing places tend not to be abundant for the very competitive and very selective courses, so the places that are still be advertised - and we have 29,000 courses still advertising vacancies - are a particular type of course.
"So, some students who have very good grades would be making the right decision if they decided to apply again next year."
A record 195,000 people - 10,000 more than this time last year - are eligible to compete for clearing places this year.
Record numbers - nearly 220,000 - would remain unplaced, she said, although historically, nearly half of those either turn down places or withdraw their applications.
Universities Minister David Willetts said students who failed to get on courses could also look at the other options such as studying part-time, with other organisations offering degrees, or by looking for an apprenticeship.
He added: "You can also choose to reapply next year.
"Under our new reforms, graduates will have to make a greater contribution towards the cost for their degree, but there will be more generous financial support available while you study and fairer repayment arrangements when you leave university."
From next year, universities in England will be charging tuition fees of up to three times the present level of just over £3,000 a year.
Welsh universities are also raising their fees to as much as £9,000, although Welsh students will have the increase subsidised and will pay little more than they do now, wherever they study in the UK.
Scottish students studying in Scotland pay no fees, but Scottish universities plan to charge up to £9,000 a year for students from other parts of the UK from 2012.
However, students studying there - and in Wales - from areas of the EU outside of the UK will be treated the same as "local" students and will not face the higher fees. This is because of European legislation.
Northern Ireland's ministers have said there will be no major rise in fees in its universities in 2012.