Universities filling up in record time

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The Independent Online

Universities were filling up in record time last night, with 35 per cent more vacancies taken during the first 72 hours of clearing compared to last year. The scramble is particularly intense this year as record A-level results mean that many young people will have got better grades than they might have been expecting.

Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), which runs the clearing service, show that 309,758 students have now confirmed their university places. But there are still set to be fewer students at university this autumn compared to last year.

Ucas said that 319,777 candidates had confirmed their places at the same point last year. The latest clearing figures show that 3,821 students had found last-minute university places via the service, which appears exclusively in The Independent.

Only 2,820 students had found university places through clearing at the same point last year.

Critics fear that the likely drop in overall student numbers shows that the introduction of top-up fees has put many young people off higher education.

Others argue that last year's numbers were artificially inflated by a rush of students seeking to avoid top-up fees by starting their courses under the old regime. They argue that numbers will return to normal next year.

From this September universities can charge up to £3,000 a year for tuition, compared to the previous flat rate of £1,175.

The top five searches through clearing are for law, psychology, economics, English and medicine. There are no science subjects in the top 20, although a survey by The Independent found these are often the courses with most vacancies and that leading universities are cutting the grades needed in order to fill places.