Thousands of A-level candidates will be offered the prospect of part-time degree courses on Thursday as a result of this year's squeeze on university places.
UCAS, the admissions service, will for the first time offer details of all part-time degree courses online as up to 60,000 applicants for full-time courses face rejection this summer.
Anthony McClaran, the chief executive of UCAS, told The Independent: "For some students it may be they wish to think about part-time education. By applying through UCAS you are applying for a full-time course, and it may be that part-time is simply not appropriate. It is worth considering, though, for some people, that 40 per cent of higher education courses are part-time."
Thousands are likely to be unable to find a university place due to a 10.3 per cent increase in applications this year to more than 600,000 – thought to have been triggered by the recession, which has made jobs much harder to come by. The rise is even more marked in applicants from England, up 12.5 per cent.
The Government has announced an extra 10,000 places this autumn but will not fund any extra grant towards teaching costs. Some universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge, have spurned the idea of extra places.
A move to a part-time course would give a student more opportunity to take part-time employment to fund their studies and minimise debt.
"There are a large range of opportunities," said Dr McClaran. "They [candidates] can access them for the first time this year. We will be linking to them through our website ucas.com."
Dr McClaran also warned that it would be much harder for young adults to just squeeze into top universities: "In the past if a student has just missed out on their offer – say with two As and a B when they've been asked for three As – universities have been able to say 'we have found a place for you'," he said. "It may be more difficult this year."
Also for the first time this year, there will be a "window of opportunity"for students who receive higher than expected grades to seek a place at a more prestigious university. Their provisional offer will be held for five days.
The move follows claims that people from disadvantaged areas are more reluctant to press for places at top universities before getting their results.
Dr McClaran warned all candidates seeking a place through clearing to be quick off the mark this Thursday: "There will still be a very significant number of offers in clearing.
"The advice that we should give is: your search in clearing needs to be focused and urgent."
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