width=270The wait is over for thousands of school leavers in England and Wales, as record A Level results saw the overall pass rate rise for the 28th consecutive year. The results have sparked a rush for the few remaining places available through Clearing, with fears that up to 170,000 applicants are likely to miss out on a university place following funding cuts and a record surge in applications.

The new A* grade, awarded to students scoring over 90% in their final year exams, was attained by around 8% of candidates according to figures from the Joint Council for Education. An unprecedented 27% of candidates achieved A grades, while the overall pass rate rose to 97.6%.

The continued rise in grades has fuelled predictions that fewer university places will be available during Clearing, the traditional route for candidates without offers to secure a place after results day. With universities facing fines for over-recruiting this year following government funding cuts, many top universities have announced that they are already full up.

A record 379,411 candidates have already been accepted onto undergraduate courses according to the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), though with an 11.6% surge in applicants this year universities minister David Willet has accepted that many suitably qualified candidates will miss out. Over 180,000 applicants have still to secure a place according to UCAS.

An increasing number of universities in EU countries are looking to take advantage of the shortfall in places by attracting UK candidates to study abroad, offering courses taught in English, as well as cheaper fees and living costs. Top universities offering bachelor's courses in English this year include The University of Amsterdam, Maastricht University and the University of Groningen.

Maastricht University is offering English-language courses in eight subjects: European public health, European studies, arts and culture, European law, IT, life sciences, fiscal economics and econometrics. The university is also offering British students cut-price accommodation of around £330 per month.