Nearly 100,000 candidates who are scrambling for a UK university place are set to miss out because they are "not strong enough".
The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said yesterday that the number of would-be students still eligible for clearing places is at an all-time high 189,267.
But the admissions body then added: "Based on previous admissions cycles, we expect that within this number around half will be applicants whose qualifications are not strong enough to support progression to their chosen courses." UCAS is advising those it believes to have aimed too high to contact its exams hotline and discuss their future with specially trained careers advisers on hand to answer their enquiries.
It could be they then aim for a less demanding course, or seek one of the growing number of apprenticeships being offered by firms to A-level students this year.
A record number of youngsters have been placed in UK universities and colleges. The figure yesterday morning was 425,487 – 10,416 more than at the same time in 2010.
That means 62.2 per cent of those who applied have been successful – compared with 61.4 per cent last year. Since the number of university places on offer this year is about the same as last year – at 487,000 – it means that those left in the clearing race now have a fast-diminishing chance of snapping up a university place.
A total of 61,737 applicants are still awaiting a decision on their university application. They could have narrowly missed out on their grades and still be waiting to see if the university concerned will confirm their offer. Some may be appealing against their grades, particularly in the light of the blunders in exam papers which were exposed this year.
Exam board officials are bracing themselves for a higher-than-average number of appeals in the wake of the 12 mistakes – which involved all three of the biggest examination boards in this country – that came to light.