Scottish higher education institutions risk losing clearing students to the rest of the United Kingdom as the fallout from the Scottish Qualifications Authority's examination results debacle continues.
There is widespread scepticism that the SQA will fulfil its pledge to confirm final candidate results today, enabling admissions officers to start processing applications from candidates who have not met conditional offers.
In a progressively worsening situation, an estimated 10,000 of the 147,000 candidates have been issued with wrong results.
Early this week, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals told institutions to suspend confirming offers until the SQA had completed its checks. But some institutions had already sent decisions to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Coshep director David Caldwell said there was very little risk in confirming offers since the problem was one of missing data, which meant results were either missing or grades were lower than they should be.
"I have advised institutions to continue to exercise caution over candidates who have apparently not achieved the requirements, because, as a result of the SQA check, a proportion of these may be demonstrated to have met them. It is very important that institutions keep places available for these students."
But admissions staff, who would normally have started processing Scottish applications 12 days ago, are facing an influx of A-level applications. They are hampered in offering clearing places until the Scottish results are finalised, with the risk of students going elsewhere.
Gordon Craig, Dundee University director of admissions and student recruitment, said: "It's difficult to offer places in clearing if we don't know whether we're full."
Jenny Rees, Glasgow Caledonian University's director of corporate planning, said: "It's unfair to say to marginal English candidates 'we can find a place for you' but marginal Scottish candidates are stuck and not released into clearing. It introduces further delay and worry for Scottish candidates in the reject category."