Original paper headline: Clearing problem for degree applicants
Thousands of A-level pupils who do not achieve the grades they need next Thursday to go to their university of choice are likely to be left without places for the coming term.
University admissions officers are predicting that very few places will be available through clearing, the system run by Ucas to allow pupils who miss the grades for their university offer to find space on a course elsewhere.
There has been a 9.7 per cent increase in university applications this year, as school leavers hope to ride out the recession in a degree course.
This equates to 52,000 sixth-formers. But the Government has funded only 10,000 new university places. As a result, universities are predicting that very few places will become available through clearing this year.
Gerald Pryke, an adviser with Connexions, the Government's career service, said: "Clearing is going to be tight this year. There are no jobs at the moment, so lots of people are going on to higher education, and hoping that in three years the economic situation will be better than it is."
Clare Beckett, head of student recruitment at Thames Valley University, anticipates that most clearing places will be filled within a week. Usually, the process lasts three or four weeks.
"There's no question: clearing is going to be short, sharp and quick this year," she said. "There's very much a finite number of places available."
And John Hayes, shadow minister for higher education, anticipates that "tens of thousands" of would-be students will be left without a place this autumn.
"We are sorrowful for the school-leavers who hoped to go to university but will not," he said.