University places fill at record pace amid clearing competition

Students and colleges adapt quickly to great competition through clearing system for A-level students whose grades differ

University places have been filling up at a record pace, a day after A-level results were published, as students and colleges adapt to greater competition through the clearing system for applicants whose grades differed from predictions.

Some institutions, such as Exeter University, University College London and Imperial College London, took the opportunity offered by rules allowing them to seek to recruit students who scored better than ABB grades in their A-level results.

Exeter said it was enrolling an extra 600 undergraduates this year and accepting a record intake of 4,600 new students for the academic year starting in September.

Imperial and UCL, two of the most respected universities in the world, did not offer places through clearing – for students who got lower grades than expected – but did seek to use the new rules to attract further applicants with ABB or above, a process called adjustment.

Ucas, which administers the UK university admissions process, said that as of midnight on Thursday, 300 people had been placed through adjustment.

The possibility of students "trading up" to a more prestigious institution has seen universities make more generous initial offers to students, to avoid a repeat of last year when some, such as Southampton, were left with a large number of unfilled places.

Earlier this year Birmingham University made 1,000 unconditional offers to applicants, meaning they would receive a place regardless of their A-level results. But students who accept unconditional offers are not eligible to enter the adjustment process.

Meanwhile, the traditional route of clearing appears to have been working smoothly.

According to first-day figures supplied by Ucas, more than 5,500 applicants had found a place through clearing, twice the number placed at the same point in 2012 and 2011.

Overall, 401,000 applications had been accepted by colleges and universities, the highest number on record. The previous highest total at this stage was 397,000 in 2011.

Around 30,000 places were on offer yesterday, with estimates that one in 10 of the places were at universities that are members of the Russell Group of leading research universities. Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh were all offering hundreds of places through clearing.

Birmingham, which had conducted an aggressive online campaign, said it had filled all its clearing places by Friday morning.

Even the highly competitive Courtauld Institute of Art in London entered clearing, albeit with only one place to fill.

Figures released by Ucas also showed that 27% of the 18-year-old age group in England had found university places, along with 30% of the same age cohort in Northern Ireland and 23% in Scotland and 24% in Wales.

So far, nearly 20,000 places have been accepted by candidates in other EU countries, and 27,000 from students from countries outside the EU.


Richard Adams, education editor

The GuardianTramp

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