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Universities accept record numbers

A record number of students have already been accepted on to university courses, official figures show.

As of midnight on Wednesday, 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%.

The admissions service Ucas said it is the highest number of acceptances ever recorded on A-level results day.

The figures come as students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their results, with many also due to learn whether they have won a coveted place at university.

National A-level results show the proportion of exam entries awarded at least an A grade has fallen for the second year in a row, with 26.3% of entries scoring an A or A*, down from 26.6% in 2012 - a drop of 0.3%. It is believed to be the second biggest fall in the history of A-levels.

Ucas's first snapshot of university acceptances show around 345,300 applicants have gained a place at their first choice of institution. A further 98,740 applicants are awaiting results or decisions, while 145,730 are eligible for clearing - the process that matches students without places to courses with vacancies.

A higher proportion of 18-year-olds have been accepted across the UK than on results day in previous years, Ucas said. The figures appear to show that demand for university has rallied after a drop-off last year - the year that fees were trebled to a maximum of £9,000.

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: "The gateway to higher education swings open for many people today based on these results - congratulations to all of them. Demand for higher education has recovered after a dip last year and universities are keen to accept qualified applicants. For some, that means going through clearing where there are plenty of high quality vacancies."

Meanwhile, hackers attempted to bring down the university admissions website hours before anxious students began logging on to find out if they had secured their degree place.

Ucas said there had been a "criminal and sustained attempt" to crash the website. But its chief executive also insisted that the incident was quickly contained and no personal data had been released.

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