The number of students accepted on to UK degree courses has fallen this year, Ucas figures show.
A total of 425,830 people have had places confirmed – down 2% on the same point last year, according to data published by the university admissions service.
In 2021, a record 435,430 people, from the UK and overseas, had places confirmed.
This year’s figure is the second highest on record, and up 16,870 compared with 2019 when exams were last held.
Ucas said 19% more 18-year-olds in the UK achieved a place at either their first or insurance choice this year, compared with 2019.
The number of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to gain places on courses is 6,850 this year, up by 3,770 in 2019.
The admissions service said this translates to a narrowing of the gap between the most and least advantaged, with the ratio at 2.36 in 2019, 2.29 this year, and 2.34 in 2021.
International students account for 12.3% of the total full-time undergraduate applicants accepted through Ucas this year, down from a high of 14.7% in 2019.
Places for students from China, India and Nigeria are all up – increasing by 35%, 27% and 43% on last year respectively, Ucas said.
A total of 20,360 students did not get a place this year, Ucas said, down from 24,260 in 2019.
The organisation said it is not yet in a position to confirm the number of students who missed out on their first choice alone.
A total of 117,840 students have got places this year at the most selective universities, including the elite Russell Group institutions, Ucas said.
This is down from 131,520 last year, but an increase from 101,450 in 2019.
Some 179,690 18-year-olds in England got into their first choice of university course, compared with 149,670 in 2019, the Department for Education said.
This year, 21,670 got their insurance place, compared to 19,300 in 2019.
For the first batch of students to receive T-level results on Thursday, 370 – 71% of applicants – have gained a place in higher education, Ucas said.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said there are more than 27,000 courses in clearing, as well as a range of apprenticeship opportunities, for people who need to consider other options.
She said: “Today we have seen more students progress compared to the last time students sat exams.
“This year has seen a growth in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, which will continue for the remainder of the decade, and creates a more competitive environment for students in the years to come.
“While many will be celebrating today, there will be some who are disappointed.
“My advice is to take advantage of the wide range of choices on offer, which includes over 27,000 courses in clearing, along with a range of apprenticeship opportunities.”
Students can visit ucas.com to see their options or speak to a Ucas adviser on the phone or social media.
Chris Hale, chief executive of Universities UK, said the figures confirm the “strong appeal of our universities”.
He said: “Students applying this year have faced multiple years of disrupted education and they and their families should be exceptionally proud of their achievements.
“University is a life-changing experience for many, and universities will continue to provide students with the support for success in their studies and the future.”
Meanwhile, Cardiff University confirmed it had experienced “technical difficulties” on its clearing enquiry line on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for the university said: “The technical difficulties we’ve been experiencing in our Clearing Enquiry Centre have now been resolved.”
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