More than 4,000 students who pass their A-Level tertiary requirements will miss out About 18,400 A-Level examination candidates will find out today that they have passed the requirements for tertiary admission - but at least 4,000 of them will still be unable to find a place at university. There are only 14,500 university places available this year, and some have already been allocated to younger students under the Early Admission Scheme introduced last year for outstanding students. Under the scheme, Form Six students are offered early university places on the basis of their Hong Kong Certificate of Education results, sparing them the need to take A-Level exams. There were 36,660 exam candidates this year, with 50.3 per cent meeting minimum requirements for university entry. Last year's pass rate was 49.7 per cent. About 400 of the 14,500 university places have already been snapped up by top sixth-formers. They cover places in popular disciplines such as medicine and business studies at the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University and the University of Science and Technology. More competition comes from increasing demand for first-year degree places by associate degree graduates, said Chui Yat-hung, director of the student counselling group, the Hok Yau Club. 'Many sub-degree graduates have applied for admission into university as well. There is a strong sense in society now that university education is a basic requirement for advancement,' he said. The Early Admission Scheme - and the universities' plan to widen recruitment of sixth-formers as a means to introduce the four-year university curriculum earlier - could further increase competition, he said. More students had called the Hok Yau Club hotline seeking advice and comfort prior to the release of the examination results than last year, Mr Chui said. 'They are concerned about opportunities for further studies and are eager to secure places in sub-degree programmes before the government withdraws its subsidy for those courses,' said Mr Chui. Statistics from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) showed that girls outperformed boys in this year's A-Level examination. Fifty-two per cent of the female candidates were awarded Grade E (pass) or above in both Chinese and English, and in at least two A-Levels or one A-Level and two AS-level subjects. This compared to 48 per cent of males. HKEAA secretary-general Choi Chee-cheong said the competition for university places was a reality students needed to deal with. 'The most important thing is for students to find a suitable path for their futures,' she said. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups' hotline for concerned students can be reached on 2777 1112.