The BBC reports here:
"[. . .] More than 209,000 would-be students were left without a university place this year in the UK, official figures show. This was 52,938 or a third more than in 2009, Ucas data say. Grammar and independent school pupils were least likely to be disappointed in the university application process. But there was a small increase in the number of students accepted from areas that do not traditionally send large numbers on to higher education. Figures from the university admissions services Ucas show just under seven out of 10 applicants found a place at university compared with 75% the year before. Although the acceptance rate for pupils from all types of schools was down, it fell less sharply at independent and grammar schools where 82.9% and 83.8% of applicants respectively, found a place. At both comprehensive schools and further education colleges the acceptance rate was down nearly five percentage points to 78.5% and 74.3% respectively. But there was a large increase, 22%, in the number of students who declined offers made to them or withdrew their applications. [. . .]"
For non-UK readers, it is worth noting the curious application rules for entry into UK universities. For example, students looking to study in the US can apply to as many university departments as they can afford. However, students looking to study in the UK have a cap of five degree programmes. Furthermore, students cannot choose a programme at Cambridge and one at Oxford: they must choose between them. Applications aren't free, but not nearly as expensive as elsewhere: it costs £21 to apply to two or more programmes. Students who for whatever reason are unhappy about and/or unsuccessful with their max. five choices may enter a process called clearing where they may apply to other programmes, although the usual worry is that the more popular degree programmes at the more popular universities will already be full.
All expectations are that applications next year will reach new heights as students try to win places at university before the expected introduction of much higher fees. Students beginning university in autumn 2011 will pay roughly £3,500ish in fees for each of their three years -- a total of about £10,500. It is expected that students beginning the following year (e.g., 2012) may pay as much as £9,000 in fees for each of their three years -- a total of about £27,000. Needless to say, if the demand is as great as expected, then there will be many students left disappointed. What will the coalition government do then? We shall have to wait and see.