Clearing places run dry as colleges put up 'no vacancies' sign


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The Independent Online

Universities started putting up the "full" signs last night as the scramble for places continued.

A survey by The Independent showed almost every university had been besieged by record numbers of callers and that vacant places had been snapped up within a matter of hours. Among those with no places to offer were Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield Hallam, Derby and York.

Salford University took 18,000 calls for just 40 places, while Wolverhampton said it had not yet entered clearing as it was offering 100 vacancies to those on its waiting list.

Although it had not entered the clearing process, it still received 10,500 calls to its hotline. Those whodid not enter the clearing system in the first place included Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London, Warwick, Aberystwyth, Sussex and Bath. Edinburgh and Exeter were also full.

The number of students seeking places through clearing grew from 189,000 last year to 195,415 yesterday according to admissions service Ucas.

At the same time, it said, there were fewer places available through clearing at about 29,000.

Universities received a record number of applications this year and more candidates have been accepted directly. The number of students confirming their university places had exceeded the 400,000 mark yesterday. By noon, it had reached 401,957 – an increase of 7,521 on this time last year. Last night, 78,141 students were awaiting a decision on a university place.

Some may have narrowly missed out on their required grades and will be asking whether they would be allowed take up the place, while others may be appealing their grades.

Exam board officials expect the number of appeals to be higher this year, partly as a result of blunders in examination papers. They said that candidates have been compensated for this. In some cases full marks or bonus marks had been awarded as a result of a wrongly worded question and the extra stress it might have placed on candidates.

In addition, slightly more than 7,000 candidates had withdrawn from the race altogether by noon yesterday.

Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of Ucas, expressed "regret" that its main online service had crashed on Thursday after receiving 644 hits per second.

"Our initial research shows that the unprecedented peak relates to applicants wanting to confirm their places rather than reflecting an overall demand for clearing opportunities," she added.