Predictions that some institutions will collapse amid ‘toughest ever’ competition for applicants

“It’s the toughest year yet,” said Sarah Gordon, head of outreach and engagement at London South Bank University, after a gruelling few days following the publication of the A-level results last week. “There are fewer 18-year-olds, Ucas applications are down on last year and students have more choice.”

Gordon was standing, bleary eyed, in the university’s call centre, where current students were still busy answering inquiries from the most coveted properties in the higher education market: unattached students.

On Thursday, Gordon stayed up all night in case calls came in. Not a single one can go unanswered. The scramble for students was continuing throughout the weekend, with universities hosting pop-up open days and targeting students on social media.