More than 13,500 vacant university places have already been snapped up as the clearing scramble continued today.
Figures published by the university admissions service Ucas show that 13,597 students have found a place through clearing - 1,279 more than had found a place at this point last year.
In total, 187,488 applicants are now eligible for clearing because they have had no offers, failed to make their grades or applied too late.
It means that a massive 46,300 more people are now searching for a university place than were at the same point last year.
Last year, 47,600 students found places through clearing and it has been predicted that the number will be smaller this year.
When the clearing process started there were around 18,500 courses with vacancies, and it has been reported that this translates to around 30,000 places.
At this rate it would mean that around six applicants are fighting for every place.
Today's snapshot shows that record numbers of students have already taken up offers confirmed by their chosen university or found a place through clearing.
Some 415,071 students have been accepted, compared with 401,310 at this point last year - a rise of 13,761.
But tens of thousands more are still awaiting a decision.
Some 64,511 applicants are waiting to see if they have been accepted, up from 62,673 at this point in 2009.
In total, a record-breaking 675,465 people have now applied to start degree courses in the autumn - an extra 63,518 on last year.
Clearing is the annual process that matches students without a place to university courses with vacancies.
The process usually lasts for a few weeks, but it looks likely to be much shorter this year as students accept offers quickly.
Those still without a place will now have to act fast if they hope to begin a course this autumn. A small-scale survey of universities conducted by the Press Association last week found that many institutions have already closed their doors.
Those that did have places are filling up fast, with many declaring courses full on Thursday, the day A-level results were published.
Students who got the grades they needed and were given a conditional offer by a university are now guaranteed those places.
The Ucas snapshot comes just four days after A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were published.
About one in 12 exam entries (69,302 in total) were awarded one of the new A* grades, exceeding predictions, based on last year's results, that around 7% would get the top grade.
Overall, the pass rate rose for the 28th year in a row - with more than one in four entries (27%) gaining at least an A grade.Reuse content