Students chase remaining fifth of university places
Almost 400,000 students have had their university places confirmed, which means that only about one in five places remains open.
There are still 61,000 students waiting for a decision on whether they will go to their original university choices.
Figures from the Ucas admissions service on Monday show there are now 162,000 eligible to look for any remaining places in clearing.
But Ucas says there are more courses available in clearing than last year.
"Clearing" is the system which matches applicants with any available university places available, after A-level results have been published.
However Carl Lygo, head of the private BPP University College, says there are signs this year of students holding out for a better offer - saying that they are "shopping around".
"What we are experiencing is a complete reverse of last year. It's now a student market. This year, it's the students that are calling the shots - and unlike last year are making the universities wait on their decisions."
So far there have been almost 21,000 places allocated through clearing, leaving tens of thousands chasing a diminishing number of available places.
Last year the total of places available through clearing was about 50,000, but there are signs this year that a higher proportion of people could find places this way.
There are almost 30,000 fewer students eligible for clearing than at this stage last year - reflecting that there have been fewer applicants for university.
There are also more courses available - although Ucas does not publish running totals for the numbers of individual places.
This should mean a higher proportion of applicants getting places, according to the admissions service.
"We expect the overall acceptance rate for applicants to rise," Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook had forecast on Friday.
But this year, as in previous years, there will be tens of thousands of applicants who will not be able to find a place on any course.
This year has seen changes to the admissions process - with universities allowed to recruit an unlimited number of students with AAB A-level grades or better.
Even though many universities are not using this flexibility there had been uncertainty about how this might affect the allocation of places.
But with top A-level grades falling slightly, there are fewer students with these AAB grades than expected - and not all of the anticipated extra places have been filled.
The number of confirmed places remains lower than at this stage last year - but the number waiting for a decision is broadly similar.
The A-level results published on Thursday showed a slight fall in the proportion of entries gaining the top A and A* grades - the first such decline in 20 years.
Students in England beginning university courses this autumn will become the first intake to pay the higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year.