Business leaders and academic groups have called for support for A-level students who did not achieve the grades they needed, warning of a "challenge" for many trying to find a place at university.
Amid widespread praise for the high level of grades achieved, concerns were voiced about the number of students who will not gain a university place and could be "condemned" to life on the dole.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The 2010 cohort is the best qualified that we have ever had. It is deeply frustrating that so many will not be able to get into university this year."
Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "Those A-level pupils who haven't won a place in higher education should not despair. University is not the be all and end all. Not all courses will confer the financial rewards so frequently cited, and employers place just as much emphasis on wider employability skills as they do on academic qualifications
"It is important that those not successful in their applications are given every support to assess all of their options - improved careers advice would help. And at a time when the recruitment market is also very competitive, the Government could consider the practicalities of extending its internship initiative (the Graduate Talent Pool) to school leavers."
Professor Les Ebdon, chairman of university think tank million+ and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: "Today is likely to prove a very challenging day for many trying to finding a place at university. It will be a tragic waste of talent if we see thousands of applicants left without a place in 2010."
Paul Callanan, of the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign group, said: "170,000 students in schools and colleges across the country will receive their A-level results and after two years of hard work, find that they are unable to attend university.
"It is disgraceful that at a time of rising youth unemployment the Government is also cutting university spending and condemning thousands of young people to the dole queue."
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: "I am astounded that the Government's insulting response to the university crisis is simply to advise some people to temper their ambition. After years of being inspired to aim higher, the coalition government is actually telling students to aim lower.
"Education has the power to change people's lives and anybody who purports to be serious about increasing social mobility has to recognise that."