Universities to compete for 'top 115,000 students'
Universities in England could be competing for 115,000 top students this autumn, the Higher Education Funding Council estimates.
Under a government overhaul of higher education, applicants with at least an A and two B grades at A-level will not be subject to student number controls.
With universities able to recruit as many of these students as they like, they will compete to attract the best.
Last autumn, there was no cap for students with at least two As and a B.
This amounted to some 85,000 applicants in total.
But as the unlimited recruitment threshold is lowered to the grades of ABB this autumn, another 30,000 students are expected to qualify, according to analysis by the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce).
This will bring the total number of UK students outside of the cap to about 115,000, it adds.
Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group which represents leading universities, said: "The government is right to lower the grade threshold at which universities can offer unrestricted places from AAB to ABB this year, which is something we have consistently argued for.
"This is a sensible move which should allow more well-qualified students greater freedom to gain a place on one of their preferred courses."
The figures were revealed as Hefce announced details of higher education funding for 2013-14, which will see £4.47bn allocated to universities and colleges in England.
Under the new system, Hefce funding for teaching is being reduced, as universities gain more money from higher tuition fees, which now stand at a maximum of £9,000.
Hefce chief executive Sir Alan Langlands said: "As Hefce funding for teaching reduces, and university income through tuition fee loans increases, we will continue to invest on behalf of students to support excellence and diversity in learning and teaching, and a high-quality student experience.
"We remain committed to ensuring that people with the potential to benefit from participation in higher education have the opportunity to do so."