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Teenagers who fall just short of their predicted A-level grades next week are set to face a scramble for the last remaining top university places.
Many leading universities have already declared they are full, and will not be entering clearing this summer, while others expect to have just a handful of places available, a survey by the Press Association suggests.
But changes to admissions means that students who get higher than predicted grades, and score at least two As and a B, may find they have more choice.
Under the new system, there is now no limit on the numbers of AAB students that universities can recruit, allowing them potentially to offer last-minute places to youngsters who do better than expected and meet this threshold.
It means universities are likely to have less flexibility to admit students who just miss this standard, as there is still a strict cap on those who score less than AAB.
Chichester University says it's expecting to offer up to 100 clearing places, last summer it recruited 15 students through the process.
University of Southampton also say they'll have clearing spaces.
Sue Kirkham, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the TES that there were fears that bright students could miss out, even if there were specific circumstances, such as illness, that affected their performance.
"Universities who would have looked upon them favourably in the past won't be able to do that this year," she said.