Students applying to Britain's best universities will have a tougher time getting in this summer than in any recent year, according to a Sunday Times report.
Some of the Russell Group's top 10 universities, which include Oxford and Cambridge, experienced a seven per cent rise in applications in 2015, while there was an average rise of two per cent across all degree courses in the UK.
The surge in applications has occurred despite the recent rise in student fees, which are now £9,000 a year at most universities.
Sir Steve Smith, chairman of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service board, said that unless an applicant achieves three As at A-level, they will probably have to look somewhere other than the country's top institutions.
More students are trying to get into the elite universities. It will be much more competitive than last year to get a good place.
Adding to the difficulties students face is the tougher marking of A levels and the scrapping of re-sits, which means fewer top grades will be awarded this year.
Looking beyond the best
Middle-ranking Russell Group universities are being less stringent about entry requirements, with some trying hard to fill empty spaces.
Cardiff, for example, is offering scholarships of £3,000 to those with three As in some subjects, while Newcastle is trying to fill a number of courses in clearing.