Demand for higher education continues to outstrip the expansion of the universities - old and new - with 383,086 applicants chasing some 245,000 places. Students are proving quicker to confirm places at former polytechnics.
A total of 6,544 courses in universities, including the former polytechnics, have places available compared with about 4,700 this time last year, according to the central admissions bodies, UCCA and PCAS. The number is likely to grow next week as candidates take up first choices.
Today we publish the full list of vacancies - 2,122 courses at UCCA institutions and 4,422 through PCAS. There are still some places on the most popular courses such as English, law or medicine, but vacancies available through the Clearing system are largely confined to the physical sciences, engineering and computer science.
Improved A-level results are reflected in the much greater number of firm offers confirmed by the former polytechnics and colleges - 106,598 compared to 83,651 at this stage last year, although the old universities have clinched slightly fewer places. It has also prompted a late flurry of more than 2,000 applications.
An analysis by the University of Plymouth (formerly Polytechnic South West) showed applicants gaining higher A-level grades across the board than in 1991, and more getting good grades. The picture is likely to be repeated across England and Wales.
According to UCCA, about half of all applicants have been rejected in recent years, a trend likely to be repeated. Some will secure places at new universities through PCAS, but the proportion turned down by the former polytechnics and colleges is higher.
An exclusive updated list of university and polytechnic vacancies will appear on Friday in the Independent and a further update will be published at the weekend in the Independent on Sunday. Both newspapers will carry the latest lists throughout next month.
Working-class figures, page 6
Vacancies and courses
guide, pages 17-27
Letters, page 28
Making the grade, page 29