Today will be nerve-wracking for thousands of students awaiting exam results - particularly for those who will miss out on a university place despite meeting academic requirements. Despite government efforts to increase the availability of tertiary education, the shortage of university places remains acute, with 70,000 students who took the new Hong Kong Diploma for Secondary Education examination this year vying for just 15,100 places at government subsidised universities in addition to a few thousand full-fee private courses. Statistics released yesterday by the examinations body showed that 26,431 students obtained the minimum requirement for university degree courses, meaning more than 10,000 will need to pay more for further studies, repeat or look elsewhere. The new exam was introduced under the decade-long education reform that aimed to change an exam-oriented culture to one that inspired greater creativity and original thought among students. 'While the city is wrestling with an increasingly competitive globalised world, we do need strong-thinking students,' said George Pook, director of public examinations at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. HKEAA secretary general Tong Chong-sze would not comment on the surplus of eligible students but said exam results were only one set of measurements students could use for further advancement. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his blog yesterday exam results could bring ups and downs but this was like any episode in life. Successful candidates will join 15,000 students who took A-level exams this year and start subsidised degree courses in September, under a 'double cohort' arrangement planned as a transition from the old system to the new one. Most students who took the diploma were day-school pupils, but also included self-study and adult students, ranging from 15 to 67.