For thousands of A-level students the moment of truth has finally arrived.
This is the second in the series of supplements publishing the official listings of full-time and sandwich courses available in British universities and higher education colleges. The information on course vacancies is provided exclusively to The Independent from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Any other listings that claim to be official should be disregarded.

Yesterday's A-level results showed that pass rates had risen for the 17th year running. For many students, their results will have matched the requirements of their chosen university or college, in which case their place will be automatically confirmed. For the rest, the Clearing listings are the key to their chances of gaining a place in higher education this autumn.

The A-level results published yesterday highlight the growth in numbers taking vocational A-levels and degree courses, while the bastions of traditional academia - English, French, and history - are losing out. Ten per cent fewer students have taken French A-level, while English and history are down by four and five per cent respectively. Applications to courses in computing are, by contrast, up by 17 per cent.

This trend in vocational A-levels is being mirrored by the number of vocational degrees being offered and applied for. New undergraduates are far more worried about how they will find work in the highly competitive graduate job market, and are planning ahead.

There are many teacher training and education-related degrees listed. Many of these places are offered by the "new" universities and higher education colleges, emphasising the growth in the range of courses available and the diversity of institutions offering degree courses. British higher education will no longer be the cloistered environment of Oxbridge and the redbrick universities.

Other popular vocational courses include engineering, management studies and business studies. With universities and colleges being persuaded by industry to produce more trained graduates, competition for the places on these courses will be fierce.

There are a large number of places available in the traditional courses, which universities and colleges again are struggling to fill. There are still many places to study English, and a vast array of languages courses are also available.

While it is vital to act quickly to secure a place through the Clearing process, it is probably more important to make sure you make the right choice. Read our special 16-page broadsheet Parent's Guide To Higher Education, free with tomorrow's edition of The Independent. It offers advice for parents and students during this hectic period. And, of course, the official listings will be available with The Independent throughout the week.

If you have any difficulties with your Clearing application, contact UCAS' enquiries team on 01242 227788. Listings are also available on the UCAS web-site (