Thousands of top university places still up for grabs

By Judith Burns
Education reporter

image source, PA

Universities are snapping up students for tens of thousands of degree places in a buyers' market for applicants, the latest Ucas data shows.

A day after teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland got their A-level results, 430,060 applicants from the UK and overseas have accepted degree places, slightly down on last year.

Clearing has been busy with 15,160 finding places after their results.

The number of applicants placed is down 2% on the same time last year, but overall there has been a steady rise in the numbers going to university over the past 10 years - from 375,320 in 2009.

The figures include students whose places were confirmed before Thursday, including Scottish teenagers who take qualifications other than A-levels.

This year's application process has been affected by demographic changes, including a fall in the number of 18-year-olds, which has led to fewer university applications overall.

Clearing clears

Overall, Clearing secured 2.4% more places than in 2017, with more students choosing to delay their applications until after their results.

  • 4,210 found their places, after applying directly to Clearing - 16% up on last year and more than twice as many as 10 years ago
  • 10,950 applicants who went through the main application scheme have places through clearing, down slightly on 11,180 last year.

But a decline in the number of 18-year-olds has meant fewer applicants than in previous years are now listed as free to be placed in Clearing - down from a peak of 186,270 in 2011 and 4% lower than last year's figure of 134,840.

Mark Blakemore, head of student recruitment at St George's, University of London, said: "We do have a few places left for medicine (normally a very competitive area) - really single digits.

"We are currently taking interest for interviews which are running today and tomorrow."

He said that the university had not dropped its grade requirements for potential students and was receiving interest from students who had performed better than expected in their A-levels.

"It's on the back of that, that they are calling us," he said.

Dozens of other universities were urging students to call their clearing hotlines.

"We welcome any students who would like to talk to us," said Stephen Welsh, undergraduate marketing manager at Northumbria University.

"One of the team will be able to chat to them about the options available to them, based on their individual situation."

And Lee Lucas, of the Fashion Retail Academy, which offers two-year degrees, said Clearing had "very much gone mainstream" - particularly for students who want to embark on job-focused degrees.