There are only 33,000 places left to be filled in the universities, compared with 44,000 the same time last year. But Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, insisted that did not mean it would be worse for this year's hopefuls.
'The people in clearing this year will be in competition with fewer students,' he said. 'This is because more were placed the first time round.'
The good A-level results announced earlier this month mean that many students have now received firm acceptances.
Virtually every university, outside Oxford and Cambridge and a few others including Bristol, and Napier in Edinburgh, has declared vacancies on one or more courses. By yesterday there were 397,000 applicants chasing 270,000 places, with new students still applying.
The greatest number of vacancies, 19.5 per cent, are in engineering and technology, then 12.7 per cent in mathematical sciences, 12.4 per cent in business studies, 12.4 per cent in languages and related disciplines, 11.6 per cent in physical sciences, 4.6 per cent in biological sciences, and 3.5 per cent in the humanities. There is a small number of vacancies in subjects such as education, agriculture, and subjects allied to medicine, but medicine itself is full.
Mr Higgins said that most students, if they were prepared to be flexible, would be able to find a place.
As A-level results were generally good, some of the 'old' universities have rejected students who were a couple of points below the average. So the greatest pressure is on institutions where students held their second and 'insurance' offer, if they failed to get the higher grades.Reuse content