The race is on as clearing opens and the scramble for places at top universities begins, following A-level results day on Thursday.

For the first time, many leading institutions will be competing for bright students after government reforms meant no limits on the number of students with at least ABB grades.

SEE ALSO: Student Who Got Seven A*s REJECTED From Oxford University

How To Make The Most Of Clearing

The UK's top universities, which include many Russell Group institutions, were taking part in the clearing process to snap up able students who were still looking for places, or seeking to trade their offer.

Almost 30,000 courses were being advertised on the clearing website yesterday afternoon and 145,730 applicants were eligible for the process, which matches students without places to degrees with vacancies.

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  • 141 places

    Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian languages, literature and related subjects

  • 278 places

    Technologies

  • 345 places

    European languages, literature and related subjects

  • 444 places

    Medicine and dentistry

  • 653 places

    Veterinary sciences, agriculture and related subjects

  • 892 places

    Mathematical sciences

  • 904 places

    Architecture, building and planning

  • 1003 places

    Linguistics, classics and related subjects

  • 1,284 places

    Mass communication and documentation

  • 1,344 places

    Historical and philosophical studies

  • 1,908 places

    Education

  • 1,951 places

    Physical sciences

  • 2,721 places

    Computer sciences

  • 3,285 places

    Law

  • 3,469 places

    Engineering

  • 4,066 places

    Creative arts and design

  • 5,163 places

    Biological sciences

  • 5,203 places

    Subjects allied to medicine

  • 5,299 places

    Social studies

  • 8,610 places

    Business and administrative studies

Students could begin looking at courses available in clearing and contacting universities about vacancies yesterday, but could not begin making choices through the Ucas website until 5pm last night, with more than 6,000 choices added in the first 10 minutes.

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said a lot of the advertised courses would "only be for people who have the very highest grades".

This is because government reforms mean there is no limit on the numbers of students with at least one A and two B grades at A-level that universities can recruit.

But she added: "The reality is that there are vacancies across all sorts of courses and institutions."

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  • A-level results

    Bridie McGrail speaks on her moblie phone after receiving her A Level results at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Umamah Taruala after receiving her A Level results at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Rosalind Barnett, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, reads her A-Level exam results for the first time to see she has achieved 2 A* and 1 A to secure her a place at Nottingham University studying Psychology.

  • A-level results

    Sandra Forbes reacts after receiving better than expected A Level results, at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Rosalind Barnett, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, reads her A-Level exam results for the first time to see she has achieved 2 A* and 1 A to secure her a place at Nottingham University studying Psychology.

  • A-level results

    Sandra Forbes reacts after receiving better than expected A Level results, at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Sandra Forbes reacts after receiving better than expected A Level results, at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Nell Ranken, Rebecca Verlander, Louis Hill, Alice Simpson and Bridie McGrail (left to right) receive their A Level results at Stoke Newington School, in Stoke Newington, north London.

  • A-level results

    Krystyna Smolinski, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, reads her A-Level exam results for the first time to see she has achieved 4 A* to secure her a place at Cambridge University studying Natural Sciences.

  • A-level results

    Some of the top achieving A* students at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, David Moseley, right, who achieved 1 A* 2 As 1 B and his friend Stephen Fulham, left, who achieved 2 A* 1 A read their results away from the crowds.

  • A-level results

    St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School pupil Susanna Harvey, left, smiles after reading her 2 A* and 1 A results as her friend Tiffany Irwin nervously prepares to read her A-Level results.

  • A-level results

    Krystyna Smolinski, who has achieved 4 A* to secure her a place at Cambridge University studying Natural Sciences and Special needs student Jeremy Budd, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, who achieved 4A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Philosophy and the highest grades possible in the two extension (STEP) mathematics papers he took and has been offered a place at Cambridge University to study mathematics.

  • A-level results

    Top achieving A* students at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School pupils wave their their A-Level results in the air.

  • A-level results

    Special needs student Jeremy Budd, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, who achieved 4A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Philosophy and the highest grades possible in the two extension (STEP) mathematics papers he took and has been offered a place at Cambridge University to study mathematics.

  • A-level results

    St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School pupil Susanna Harvey, centre, smiles after reading her 2 A* and 1 A results as her friends prepare to read their A-Level results.

  • A-level results

    Krystyna Smolinski, who has achieved 4 A* to secure her a place at Cambridge University studying Natural Sciences and Special needs student Jeremy Budd, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, who achieved 4A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Philosophy and the highest grades possible in the two extension (STEP) mathematics papers he took and has been offered a place at Cambridge University to study mathematics.

  • A-level results

    Krystyna Smolinski, who has achieved 4 A* to secure her a place at Cambridge University studying Natural Sciences and Special needs student Jeremy Budd, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, who achieved 4A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Philosophy and the highest grades possible in the two extension (STEP) mathematics papers he took and has been offered a place at Cambridge University to study mathematics.

  • A-level results

    Special needs student Jeremy Budd, from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, who achieved 4A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Philosophy and the highest grades possible in the two extension (STEP) mathematics papers he took and has been offered a place at Cambridge University to study mathematics.

  • A-level results

    Some of the top achieving A* students at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, Anna Skinner, centre, who achieved 2 A*s 1 A and her friends Tiffany Irwin, left, who acheived 1 A* 2 As and Rosalind Barnett, right, who achieved 2 A*s 1 A, read their results.

  • A-level results

    Two girls celebrate their results at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    A student holds her results at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    (L-R) Katy Lucas, Jessica Lance, India Dhadra, Beth Kelly and Rachel Madden celebrate their exams results at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Tom Woodward celebrates on receiving 1 A* and 2 As after having treatment for cancer during his exams at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Megan Larner celebrates grades of A*, A, and B at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Megan Larner celebrates grades of A*, A, and B at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Hannah Short celebrates grades of A*, A and B at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Students Jonathan Cushenan and Hannah Cole, celebrate their A levels results outside Ballymena Academy in County Antrim.

  • A-level results

    Hannah Short celebrates grades of A*, A and B at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    India Dhadra celebrates grades of A, A, and C at Brighton College in East Sussex as students receive their A Levels results across the country.

  • A-level results

    Nino Harris, 19, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, a self-confessed "bad boy" who was forced to retake his first year of A-levels and now has won a place at the University of Oxford.

  • Withington Independent Girls School pupils pose for parents cameras as they receive their A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. Over 300,000 teenagers are getting the results of their A-levels today as university admissions body UCAS said a record number of students have been accepted by UK universities. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Withington Independent Girls School pupils pose for parents cameras as they receive their A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. Over 300,000 teenagers are getting the results of their A-levels today as university admissions body UCAS said a record number of students have been accepted by UK universities. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Withington Independent Girls School pupils pose for parents cameras as they receive their A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. Over 300,000 teenagers are getting the results of their A-levels today as university admissions body UCAS said a record number of students have been accepted by UK universities. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Withington Independent Girls School pupils pose for parents cameras as they receive their A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. Over 300,000 teenagers are getting the results of their A-levels today as university admissions body UCAS said a record number of students have been accepted by UK universities. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Withington Independent Girls School pupils pose for parents cameras as they receive their A level exam results on August 15, 2013 in Manchester, England. Over 300,000 teenagers are getting the results of their A-levels today as university admissions body UCAS said a record number of students have been accepted by UK universities. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The major overhaul of higher education means that a number of top institutions that do not always enter clearing are taking part in the process to compete for top students.

A snapshot survey of the Ucas clearing website taken yesterday afternoon by the Press Association found that more than one in 10 courses listed with vacancies were for Russell Group universities.

The Russell Group represents 24 leading institutions including Oxford and Cambridge, neither of which are taking part in clearing.

In total, 16 of the 24 universities were advertising vacancies, with more than 3,400 courses on offer for students in England between them.

Russell Group director general Dr Wendy Piatt said: "We hope this year's change to a lower threshold of ABB or equivalent will reduce some of the unintended consequences from last year when students who wanted to attend a leading university and had the right qualifications were not able to - even when those universities wanted to accept them.

"One consequence of the uncertainties in the new system is that universities may have more places to offer through clearing to well-qualified students who have narrowly missed out on their first choice.

"Ucas and our universities have been preparing for this carefully and are on hand to help students who have missed their offer.

"There may also be places available through the Ucas adjustment process for those who have done better than expected.
"We will be monitoring this carefully over the coming days and weeks."

The national A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which were published yesterday, showed that the proportion of A-level grades scoring an A or higher had fallen for the second year running as rising numbers of students opted for traditional subjects like science and maths.

In total, 26.3% of entries scored an A or A*, down from 26.6% last year - a drop of 0.3%.

It is believed to be the second biggest fall in the history of A-levels, and comes the year after the A*-A pass rate fell for the first time in more than 20 years.

The number of entries awarded an A* - the highest grade - also dipped to 7.6%, compared with 7.9% last year, while the overall A*-E pass rate rose slightly by 0.1% to 98.1%.

A breakdown by subject revealed a continued move towards science and maths A-levels, which are often seen as tougher, and more traditional subjects.

There were almost 24,000 more entries for the sciences this year compared with 2009, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said, and nearly 19,000 more for maths courses.

It also emerged that boys outperformed girls in the top grade again, and widened the gender gap, with 7.9% of boys' entries attaining an A* compared with 7.4% of girls.

Young people continued to turn their backs on many modern foreign languages, with French and German entries down again, although Spanish bucked the trend with numbers up 4.1%.

Exam boards announced an investigation into the issue.

As of first thing yesterday morning, 385,910 applicants had been accepted by UK universities and colleges - 31,600 more than at the same point last year, a rise of 9%.

Ucas said it was the highest number of acceptances recorded on A-level results day.