Some 11,180 students were placed on undergraduate courses in the UK through clearing in the first 24 hours after yesterday's A-level results.
Figures from the university admissions service, Ucas, show it was the highest number for five years.
Students placed through clearing tend to be those who did not get the grades for their favoured courses.
But a dip in university applications has left universities looking to fill more places than usual.
There have been reports of some leading universities offering places through clearing.
This year's early figure is nearly double the number of students placed through the system at the same point five years ago.
Overall, 437,070 students have been accepted on to university courses - the vast majority getting the grades for their chosen places of study.
This is down 1.3% on the same point last year, Ucas figures show.
About 134,840 students are still registered as looking for places in clearing.
Since 2013, universities have been able to recruit unlimited numbers of students who achieved certain grades in their A-levels.
It comes after the proportion of candidates awarded top grades rose slightly on last year.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said with nearly 45,000 courses looking for students there was a huge amount of choice out there.