Universities in England have pledged to honour as many offers of places to students as possible this year, after an agreement with the government offered extra funding to avert further chaos in admissions.
The deal will see the government lift its cap on the number of students taking medicine, dentistry, teaching and veterinary courses in England this year and next year, while promising extra funding for other high-cost subjects.
Additional teaching grants will be provided to increase the numbers of people able to take nursing, science, technology, engineering and other high-cost subjects.
In return, the universities said they would confirm places for this year or next year to all applicants at their first choice university with the required grades, including those issued by Ofqual based on school assessments.
A statement by the Department for Education said all offers would be honoured “where possible, or if maximum capacity is reached to offer an alternative course or a deferred place”.
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said: “I am delighted the government and the higher education sector have agreed that all students who achieved the required grades will be offered a place at their first choice university.
“I want universities to do all they can to take them on this year or offer alternative courses or deferred places where required.”
The awarding of A-levels by school assessment has meant many more students have met their offers to study medicine or dentistry. Lifting the cap means they can take up a place this year if available, or be offered a place next year.
Prof Richard Harvey, the academic director of admissions at the University of East Anglia, said it had 185 medical places but was facing a possible overshoot of up to 50 students. He said the situation was likely to be replicated at medical schools across the country.
The Ucas admissions service said more than three-quarters of 18-year-olds in England have accepted places at either their first or second choices. On Wednesday it said 15,000 students who were originally rejected by their first choice will now meet the A-levels required using their teacher-assessed grades awarded on Thursday.
Jo Grady, the University and College Union general secretary, said: “This is a welcome reprieve for many prospective students, but the governments shambolic decision-making means that every action is taken at the last second and the damaging consequences of those actions are passed straight on to hard-working university staff.”
Tim Bradshaw, the chief executive of the Russell Group of universities, said its institutions “will do everything they can” to place students on their preferred courses.
“Where this isnt possible, our universities will look to offer deferred places or explore places on alternative courses where the student meets the entry requirements,” Bradshaw said.