The "house full" sign has gone up at most of Britain's leading universities as students snapped up places on courses at a record rate. But a lifeline was offered for youngsters who had flunked their A-levels as some universities urged them to sign up for foundation degree courses that could pave the way for a full degree course later.
Some were also lowering their normal entry requirements to snap up science students.
Some Russell Group universities such as Bristol, University College London and Oxford and Cambridge are not using the clearing system, as all their places have been taken. Oxford has also said it will consider the postcode of a student's family home when selecting candidates for interview from next year.
The move will highlight applicants from a deprived background who, some academics believe, may have had to battle harder for their results in under-achieving schools than pupils in independent or selective state schools.