21/08/2017 14:42 BST | Updated 22/08/2017 01:41 BST

More Students Finding Last-Minute Spots On University Courses

Rising numbers of students are finding last-minute degree places, amid continuing competition between universities to snap up those still searching for a course.

As of midnight, a total of 28,270 students had secured a spot for this autumn through clearing - up just over 1% on last year, and a rise of around 59% compared with five years ago.

The snapshot does show that the overall numbers of applicants placed has fallen by around 1% this year, which comes in the wake of a drop in applications for degree courses.

There are indications that students who have not yet secured a place are still in a good position, with a Press Association survey showing there are still thousands of courses potentially with availability - including some at the UK's top universities.

The survey, based on 148 universities and colleges, gives a total of 25,336 undergraduate courses showing availability for students in England on the Ucas website, down just a couple of thousand courses compared with Thursday, when clearing opened.

Out of the 24 Russell Group universities alone, a group of highly selective institutions that are considered among the best in the country, more than two-thirds (17) have at least one course listed on the site, with 3,365 courses listed in total.

The Ucas data also suggests there has never been a better time to enter clearing amid a fall in overall applications and acceptances and fewer students free to enter the annual process.

Clearing is the annual system that matches students without degree places, such as those that failed to meet the entry requirements for their chosen course, with courses that still have availability.

It shows that as of midnight:

:: A total of 461,860 applicants had found a place, down 1% on the same point last year.

:: There has been a drop in the number of students taking up places at their first choice of university as well as a fall in the numbers taking up places on their insurance, or back-up, course.

:: More students are finding places through adjustment, which allows students to "trade up" to a different course or institution if they do better than expected, with 840 findings places this way so far, compared with 730 last year (up 16%).

:: The number of students eligible to be placed in clearing is down around 13% (around 18,000 people) compared with last year.

The figures suggest many options are still available to students hoping to start degree courses this autumn with less competition among those still searching for a place.

Overall, 649,700 people had applied to start degree courses by June 30, the last deadline for applications, down around 4% (25,190) compared with this point last year, according to previous Ucas figures.

A breakdown shows a 4% decrease in UK applicants, while the number of EU students fell by 5%, and international student numbers were up 2%.