Applicants for social work degree courses are facing a tough battle for places in the clearing system this year, with only 8% of institutions still advertising vacancies.
Of the 103 institutions offering the degree, only eight universities and colleges are still accepting applications.
According to the website of universities admissions body UCAS, all of these are in England, where 83 universities and colleges teach the social work degree. There are no vacancies at the 20 institutions offering courses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“There will be a lot of disappointed students this year,” said Professor Ray Jones, of Kingston University in London.
“Most courses will have offered more places than they had available, factoring in the possibility that some students won’t get the grades.”
Under clearing, universities with unfilled places invite applications from candidates who did not attain the grades they were expecting, or late first-time applicants.
Social work courses have seen a record number of applications this year with 60,000 received in the UK for full-time undergraduate courses in 2010-11. This is up from 37,000 in 2009-10, when just 5,850 students were accepted on to courses, equivalent to six applications for every place.
However, Jones warned that the number of places available in 2011 could fall due to funding cuts and vice-chancellors choosing to prioritise research over teaching.
He pointed to decisions by Reading University and Royal Holloway in Surrey, which have announced closures of social work degree programmes, and said there was a danger that other institutions could follow.
“Universities are trying to contain their expenditure because they have less government funding, and social work education is expensive in terms of providing placements.
“Also, some universities may become more research-focused and drop some courses that are teaching-focused. This is because of the higher status and income that’s available through research.”
Demand for social work courses in Scotland remains strong with about seven applications for every place – up slightly on 2009 – according to Tim Kelly, professor of social work at Dundee University.