Admissions tutors have got off to a flying start in filling the extra places for the coming academic year.
The number of students accepted on full-time courses is up 7 per cent on this time last year, according to figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Most of these extra students achieved the entry qualifications universities had asked of them. But the number of people accepted through clearing was up by 5.2 per cent on this time last year.
Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, said: "The figures show an extremely positive start to confirmation and clearing, with more applicants than ever having their conditional offers confirmed. The number of applicants has also increased against the same time last year, so we are hoping to see a record number of people entering higher education in the autumn."
The data reveal that mature students are returning to full-time higher education, following the reintroduction of grants for them. The number of 21 to 24-year-olds who have accepted a place is up 15 per cent on last year. The number of people aged over 25 who have accepted a place is up 9.4 per cent. In both of these age groups, the growth among males has outstripped that among females.
Fewer applicants are withdrawing from the scheme than last year, despite fears of a growth in poaching and of students with better-than-expected results trading up to more prestigious institutions.
For example, two weeks ago, the University of Portsmouth, wrote to its applicants to draw attention to some new courses on offer.
The letter stated: "You might have already accepted an offer from another institution, in which case I hope very much that you make the target set for you... If you are still unplaced or your offer does not work out, please come to one of our open days."
Steve Kendall, director of recruitment at Luton University, said: "Students nowadays have more of a trading mentality and, to the people who are advising them, it increasingly seems like a normal thing and they tell them how to do it legally. But I don't detect that it is happening in a big way this year."