AS MANY as 30,000 more students are fighting for a university place this year compared with last year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said as The THES went to press.
Early signs show that the anticipated stampede for the last free university places before student fees are introduced next year has materialised, UCAS chief executive Tony Higgins said. The situation will not however be clear until after the bank holiday.
Despite the Government waiving fees for 19,000 students who had planned to defer entry until 1998, many of the 70,000 other students who fell outside the criteria for the Government's concession have joined the rush.
By Wednesday, late applications directly into clearing were up 36 per cent on last year at 12,706. Almost 250,000 students have been accepted onto courses, compared with 218,867 this time last year, UCAS said. Just over 5,000 had been accepted through clearing, compared with 3,000 last year. The applications total stood at 436,416 for about 310,000 places.
Mr Higgins said that the places would only be available to absorb the additional applicants if "every single institution" exceeded its student numbers quota by 2 per cent - the margin allowed by the funding council. Many qualified hopefuls may still fail to find a place.