Clearing: Scholarships and iPods on offer as scramble for final places begins

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The Independent Online

A glittering array of scholarships and incentives are on offer for the first time to the thousands of students who yesterday started a mad scramble to try and snap up university places through the clearing system.

Brunel University, for instance, is offering 50 cash scholarships worth up to £2,000 per year to students who can prove that they are the first members of their families to go to university.

At Bradford, clearing students who successfully complete a competition entry are offered the chance to win an iPod Nano for their efforts.

Anglia Ruskin University, which has campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford, has an ad on its website drawing attention to scholarships of £2,000 which are available to clearing candidates.

The offers have prompted authors of The Push Guide to Which Universities - which offers a range of information about to individual universities - to warn students against accepting any offer just because of what they term a "discount".

The scholarships are available in the wake of the Government's decision to allow universities to charge top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year, from this autumn.

Johnny Rich, series editor of the Push Guides, said: "Going to university represents a significant investment of time and money.

"No student should accept a place just because it's discounted, but if it suits you in other ways, it's certainly a bonus."

All the universities deny they are offering discounts. A spokeswoman for Brunel said its scholarships were in line with the criteria laid down by the Office for Fair Access (Offa), the Government's university admissions watchdog, to widen participation among communities with little history of university education.

She pointed out that the scholarships, part of a range offered to all students at the university, were specifically for youngsters with no history of university education in their family.

At Anglia Ruskin University, the scholarships are also on offer to students who applied and were offered provisional places before clearing.

Evidence of the mad scramble for clearing places emerged last night, as it was revealed that there were a total of 96,257 candidates eligible for clearing - and 37,398 courses with one or more places available.

However, the University and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said that it believed only half of the candidates would be actively seeking a place. Many would resit their examinations in the hope of improving their grades, while others would take a gap year and reapply for a place next year. Last year, 37,197 students found their university or college place through clearing.

By last night, according to Ucas, almost 300,000 A-level candidates had had their university places confirmed. At the time of going to press 286,260 places had been filled - 9,183 fewer than last year, when there was a rush from candidates hoping to beat the introduction of top-up fees this September.

Anthony McClaran, the chief executive of Ucas , said yesterday: "For those who are disappointed with their grades, Ucas works hard with the universities and colleges to provide an efficient and effective service that helps students to find their places in higher education."