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Record numbers find degree places through clearing

By Alison Kershaw, PA Education Correspondent

Record numbers of students have found university places through Clearing, figures show.

More than 17,000 applicants have been accepted on to degree courses through the annual process - up 15% on the same point last year.

The proportion of would-be students by-passing the main application system in favour of searching for a course directly through Clearing has hit a new high, with around 4,500 securing their spot this way.

But the overall numbers confirming undergraduate places - through the main application scheme or Clearing - has fallen by 1% compared to the same point last year.

The figures come the day after students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their A-level results.

Latest Ucas figures show that in total, 17,420 people have been accepted through Clearing - the annual process that matches students without a place to courses with availability - compared with 15,160 at this time last year (up 15%).

Of these, a record 4,540 applied directly into Clearing, up 8% from 4,210 in 2018.

Clearing has become an increasingly popular route to securing a university place in recent years, in part due to reforms that lifted the cap on the number of students universities could recruit.

It is also used by students who may have changed their mind about their course or university and want to find somewhere new, or those who have done better than expected in their exams and want to trade places.

A snapshot survey, conducted by the PA news agency, shows that as of first thing on Friday morning, for applicants living in England, there were 25,736 courses with availability across 146 UK universities and colleges - including some of the country's top institutions.

Overall Ucas figures show that in total, 425,700 people - from the UK and overseas - have been placed on a UK undergraduate course so far this year, a 1% fall on the same point last year.

A breakdown shows that 364,380 UK applicants have had places confirmed, down 2%.

But there has been a rise in acceptances for overseas students.

Some 34,390 international students, from countries outside the EU, have been accepted - a new high, and up 6% on last year.

EU student acceptances have dropped slightly (by 120 students) to 26,930.

Meanwhile, the number of UK 18-year-olds taking up places has fallen by less than 1% to 210,630. This drop comes amid a 1.9% fall in the UK 18-year-old population.

There are some suggestions that mature students are increasingly using Clearing as a means to find a degree place.

London South Bank University (LSBU) said students who apply for its courses "typically no longer plan a year ahead or observe the traditional Ucas cycle", instead researching options ahead of time and "deliberately choose to apply for a specific place on a course during the annual Clearing cycle".

Nicole Louis, LSBU's chief customer officer, said: "I am delighted that the number of mature students applying direct to Clearing for a place at LSBU remains high.

"LSBU is fast becoming 'the University of opportunity' for many mature students looking to upskill or retrain at all stages of life."

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