Top universities 'are full up'

But for students facing the prospect of clearing, plenty of places remain at newer colleges
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The "house full" sign has gone up at a growing number of universities - leaving thousands of youngsters still seeking courses scrambling for places at Britain's newer universities.

Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, the Courtauld Institute in London, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield were among those that told The Independent on Sunday in a survey that they no longer had any places left for A-level candidates seeking places through clearing.

Yet some universities - such as London Metropolitan - still had about 1,200 places left for a range of courses. The largest number of vacancies can be found in computing and engineering.

Today's survey by The Independent on Sunday appears to indicate that the elite Russell group of universities - which represents the 18 biggest research institutions in the UK - had filled up their places just as quickly as usual despite the fact that there are fewer students applying this year.

Some members of the Russell group still offered some hope to would-be students, though, including Warwick, which said it still had "a handful" of places in computer science. Imperial College London said it still had places left on geology, environmental geoscience and geophysics courses.

However, the University of Central England in Birmingham announced it still had 300 places left - which was about 100 more than at the same time last year.

Those universities still seeking large numbers of students were ready to offer places to those who had failed to get good passes at A-level; UCE, for instance, set a minimum of a C and D grade pass for degree courses.

Teesside University stressed it was ready to accept those without A-level passes, but who had studied for an equivalent vocational qualification, on to its courses.

"The university welcomes applications from students with a broad range of level three [the equivalent of two A-levels] qualifications," said a spokesman. "In accordance with the university's commitment to widening participation, applications from mature students (applicants aged 21 and above) who may not meet conventional entry requirements will be welcomed. In assessing these applications we take into account any alternative qualifications or other relevant experience."

Greenwich University said it still had "some vacancies left in most subjects", and said it was prepared to accept applicants with two A-level passes or an equivalent qualification for some courses.

At the University of Hull, there were also vacancies in most courses - including a number of new programmes launched this year, such as creative media computing, jazz and popular music and logistics.

Nationally, recruitment to universities is expected to be lower this year - the first in which universities have been allowed to charge top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year - than last year. Early indications are that this year's figures could be about 8,000 down on 2005, although ministers are optimistic they will pick up again next year, saying this year's "blip" is because so many applied last year, avoiding a gap year, so that they could enrol before the new fees regime came in.

This year's record A-level results - with 24.1 per cent of all candidates achieving A grade passes - has helped the elite universities to fill up their courses more quickly as more students have gained the passes they needed to snap up provisional offers.

VACANCIES: Places still available around the UK

Anglia Ruskin: Optical management, architecture, psychology

Bath: Electrical engineering

Birmingham: No vacancies

Bournemouth: A few places are still available

Central England, Birmingham: 300. Computing, IT and technology and business. A small number in English

City University: About 110. Engineering and computing

Courtauld Institute, University of London: No vacancies

Durham: No vacancies

East Anglia: Fewer than 15

Glasgow: 40-50. Humanities, engineering and science

Glasgow Caledonian: Very few - engineering and computing

Greenwich: Some vacancies in most subjects

Heriot-Watt: Handful in science and engineering

Hull: Vacancies in a number of subjects such as engineering, modern languages and science. New courses such as jazz and popular music also have vacancies

Imperial College London: Just a handful. Geology, environmental geoscience and geophysics

Kingston: Only a very limited number available. Includes computing and information systems, architecture, economics and sociology

Leeds: Fewer than 50. Looking only for high-quality candidates

London Metropolitan: 1,200 left in a range of courses

Loughborough: Small number still available. Includes materials engineering, manufacturing engineering, chemistry and electronic and electrical engineering

Northumbria: Business, computing, design, engineering, information sciences

Nottingham: Quite full but would consider someone with very high grades

Paisley: Limited vacancies. Engineering and science, computing, media, business and social science

Plymouth: Many

Robert Gordon, Aberdeen: Still recruiting in courses such as business, management, art and design, engineering, computing, surveying and the built environment, and life sciences

Staffordshire: Many subjects still have vacancies

Stirling: More than last year. Includes science, languages, computing science

Teesside: Variety of courses with vacancies including foundation degrees, HNDs and first degrees

Warwick: Handful of places in computer science

York: Social sciences

For a full, up-to-date list of vacancies go to: