UCAS published data on applications as at 19 December earlier this week. This time, the spin is about a 'late surge', although I can't see much surging in this chart myself.
nor in this one.
the previous month of about 20,000 applicants year-on-year has remained fairly constant, meaning that as total application numbers rise the percentage difference between the two years gets smaller.
As at 19 December there were about 270,000 Home/EU applicants to English universities, and the total number of places (based on the population subject to SNC or likely to be AAB+) is about 350,000. That means that with even a moderately active month from December 19 there will again be more applicants than places in the system. But as I've said before, this does not mean every place will be filled. I'm a bit of a doomsayer by nature, but for all that there is still a genuine possibility of uncomfortable outcomes for certain institutions.
Consider the case of the applicant who just misses the AAB threshold. Prestigious institutions which have had many of their AABs hijacked by even more prestigious ones (maybe SOAS) and would therefore like to have this person, may not be able to accept such students at Confirmation or in Clearing, because they will be constrained by the SNC; so there may well be a population of applicants too proud to accept the institutions able to accept them. Even students well short of AAB may not be willing to go to certain institutions in Clearing. Once London Metropolitan is full at £6k or less, will applicants be willing to pay £9k to go to UEL or will they decide that at that price it is better to miss out on HE? We don't know.
The November data weren't that bad. The December data aren't that great. Most institutions should be reasonably secure, but the small group at the cusp of the AAB/ABB boundary, and (I suspect to a lesser extent) low prestige/high fee institutions will still need to stay awake. The proof of the pudding will be in the Clearing.