The official vacancy listing for Scottish universities and colleges is a passport to higher education
The vacancy listings which appear in the Scottish edition of The Independent are prepared by UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and are the only official listings of vacancies in Scottish universities and colleges. Any other vacancy listings should be disregarded.

Universities and colleges received Highers results for the applicants who were holding conditional offers a few days ago, and have been busy notifying UCAS of their decisions on those applicants. In the vast majority of cases, applicants should receive letters confirming their places by Tuesday 10 August.

The Association of University Teachers has called a strike on 9 and 10 August in order to hit the admissions process. This action is meant to affect the "old", or pre-1992, universities - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Herriot-Watt, Glasgow and Strathclyde - but it is not clear how strong the action will be. Fortunately, there will have been three days from the publication of results to the start of any strike, so that the large part of any admissions activity will have been concluded by the time strike action is due to take place.

To use the listings you should first check with the university or college from where you are holding an offer whether it is likely that you will be accepted. If not you will need to go into Clearing. If you feel you want to get a university place in Scotland for the 1999/2000 academic year, and you know what courses you wish to target, then look through the vacancy listings and ring those universities or colleges in which you are interested.

Before you telephone (institutions' phone numbers are in the UCAS Handbook 1999 and overleaf), have your UCAS number ready together with your Highers results and a piece of paper by the telephone with the questions you would like to ask. Have a pen by you as well so that you can take down anything said to you by admissions tutors, either in terms of advice or, indeed, instructions on what to do next if their university wants to offer you a place.

Remember that these listings apply to vacancies in Scottish universities and colleges only. If you feel that you might like to go on to university or college in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, their vacancies will be published for the first time in The Independent on Thursday 19 August. There is, of course, nothing to stop you ringing an institution outside Scotland even now, but you might find that your telephone calls are rather untargeted and you may get frustrated.

Remember that there is usually a place for anybody who has the basic qualifications to get into university or college, although some courses, such as those in medicine and veterinary medicine, are unlikely to have many places, if any. Don't panic, take advice, and when you are ready, act decisively.

Tony Higgins is chief executive of UCAS