Nearly 120,000 students will be denied university places

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The Independent Online

Nearly 120,000 students applying for university are without a place this autumn, despite record numbers being accepted for courses.

Figures show that out of 511,689 applicants this year, a total of 387,662 have had their university places confirmed as the clearing season draws to a close.

Record numbers applied this year, with student leaders and academics claiming this was because they wanted to avoid top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year - which come into force next September.

As a result, the acceptance figure is 29,433 higher than last year, with the number of home students under the age of 21 going up by 8.3 per cent to 282, 514. Those getting a place through the clearing system are up by 6.7 per cent to 29,674.

However, the number without a place has also risen this year to 107,652 - a 9 per cent increase on the same time last year. In addition, 8,000 students have withdrawn from the scheme and a further 8,000 are still waiting to hear if a place has been confirmed.

Ministers will welcome the increase in student numbers - which mean they are making progress towards their target of getting 50 per cent of youngsters into higher education by the end of the decade.

But they will be anxious over whether those who have failed to find a place will try again next year - fearing a tailing off in student numbers coinciding with the first year of the new top-up fee regime.

A breakdown of the figures shows the rise in European students - particularly from Eastern Europe - is far greater than UK students. Their numbers have swelled by 18.7 per cent to 13,401, with the biggest increases including Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The number of overseas students from outside the European Union has gone up by 3.3 per cent, but with a notable 20 per cent decline in Chinese students.

Popular subjects this year include social work - up 47.5 per cent to 6,899; education studies - up 25.4 per cent to 4,351; and tourism, transport and travel - up 25 per cent to 2,879.

Meanwhile, a poll of graduates published today reveals one in five believe accountancy offers them the best career opportunities. The poll of 16,113 of this year's graduatesranked PricewaterhouseCoopers as offering the best career opportunities.