Yorkshire university places fill up in scramble

MOST universities in Yorkshire have filled all their places, it was revealed yesterday, as tens of thousands of students across the country faced a desperate scramble to find the last remaining vacancies on degree courses.

Huddersfield, Leeds Metropolitan, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York University have all confirmed they are closed to applicants while Leeds University did not even enter clearing this year because of the high student demand for places.

Hull and York St John both said they were all but full, with only a handful of places left last night.

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Record A-level results and school leavers battling to avoid the higher annual university fees of up to £9,000, which start in 2012, have led to huge pressure on university places this year.

Leeds Met filled its last remaining vacancies by 10.30am on Thursday morning – less than three hours after most students received their A-level grades.

The university, which had warned it did not expect to have any places to offer through clearing this year, had allocated around 85 places through the system which matches up candidates without a university place to the remaining vacancies.

The clearing process runs throughout September but the reality facing school leavers was universities announcing they were full less than two days after A-level results were announced.

Huddersfield University filled up yesterday morning while Sheffield Hallam and York were closed to applicants before the end of Thursday.

A York University spokesman said the stress of the day had been intensified because the Universities and Colleges Admission Service’s (Ucas) clearing website went down for several hours after grades were announced.

York had around 70 places left which filled up through clearing on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for York St John said they had started with around 100 clearing places available, down from 135 a year earlier. By mid-afternoon yesterday there were just 17 left and these were expected to fill quickly.

Hull University also reported having a small number of available courses left. This included some at the university’s expanded business school and in modern languages and engineering.

Nationally more than 3,600 places have already gone through the clearing system.

Figures published by Ucas show a record 195,415 people have been eligible for clearing and 3,692 students have already secured a place through the system.

Some of these will be Scottish students who gained their place after their results were published earlier this month.

Clearing matches students who did not get the grades they needed, or who had turned down offers or received none, to courses with vacancies.

Universities Minister David Willetts has claimed there will be 40,000 or more places in clearing this year. But, with 195,000 eligible for the process, this could still mean five students could be competing for every place.

In total, 401,000 students have already had their university places confirmed, a rise of 7,500 on 2010, Ucas said. Around 78,000 youngsters are still awaiting a decision from their chosen university.

The figures come as Ucas head Mary Curnock Cook said “lessons have been learned” from the debacle that saw its crucial website shut down on Thursday.

The rush for clearing places was exacerbated when a fivefold increase in the number of visits to the Ucas Track website, which allows students to check if they have secured their university place, forced the site to close temporarily.

Thursday’s A-level results saw the overall A* to E pass rate soar to a record 97.8 per cent. One in 12 entries received an A* grade this summer, but the number of exams scoring at least an A levelled out for the first time in 15 years. More than one in four exam papers – 27 per cent – achieved at least an A, the same percentage as in 2010. The last time this figure stalled was in 1996 and 1997.

The A* grade was created last year for pupils who achieve 90 per cent or more in their exams.