More than half the available university places had been filled by yesterday after this year's record-breaking A-level results.
Officials at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said the speed at which places were being filled suggested that more students might be getting their first choice places because of the good results. The A-level pass rate - those getting grades A to E - rose by 1 per cent.
Universities have already accepted 146,000 students for the expected 271,000 places, 20,000 more than at the same time last year. Tony Higgins, Ucas chief executive, said: "It is early days but it may be that fewer students will find places through the clearing system this year."
But he urged candidates who had failed to get the required grades not to despair, saying that those who were prepared to be flexible by, for instance, taking combined rather than single honours courses and by considering less fashionable universities, had a good chance of finding places.
As the dispute about whether A-level standards are being maintained continued, pupils who had scored top grades in the exam challenged the view that the exam is too "easy". Corinne Stannard, aged 18, from Colchester High School in Essex, who obtained six As and will study medicine at University College, London, said: "The exams were an awful lot of hard work for everybody. It is a shame that people are raising questions yet again about whether they are as difficult as they used to be."
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