Universities are offering iPads, laptops and even cash to lure students in a bid to fill courses after government reforms meant many are struggling to recruit numbers.

One university is offering up to £10,000 for students with a minimum of BBB, while others are offering £1,500 towards accommodation fees. Universities have been forced to compete for top students after new admission rules scrapped the cap on the number of students with ABB and above - leaving institutions free to recruit as many as they wished.

Lower-ranking universities will be hit hard by the reforms as leading institutions snap up the best students - leaving them to come up with incentives to attract undergraduates through clearing.

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An investigation by the Independent on Sunday found Birmingham's Newman University is offering a £10,000 grant to students not on teacher training courses, while cash incentives of up to £2,000 a year were also being offered by Salford, Bangor, Bradford and Glasgow.

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Prior to A-level results day, a higher education "insider" told the Sunday Times: "The universities will be fighting like cats and dogs . . . On law courses in particular they are trying to pile students up high because it’s a way of enrolling good quality students and they can teach them relatively cheaply. But not all these students will be able to get jobs."

Universities minister David Willetts said: "There will be some that fill up quickly and others who don't do so well. That's how an open, more flexible system works."