By politics.co.uk staff
Around 3,500 A-level students with straight-As will not get into university this year, higher education minister David Willetts has warned.
He said many top students' failure to apply to courses with lower entry requirements meant some of Britain's best-qualified students would miss out this year.
"That's their decision. They can choose how they handle those applications," Mr Willetts said.
"There may be a number like that again this year and we will do our best to help them and encourage them to think about how they could reapply next year."
Last year 166,000 would-be university students failed to get places in higher education.
This year 660,000 have applied, up 11% on last year's figures, partly because of nearly 50,000 on 2009's unsuccessful candidates reapplying.
Ministers attribute the increase to the recession, as the difficult jobs market deters many workers from seeking employment.
Mr Willett's comments came as exams regulator Ofqual sought to pre-empt the perennial debate about 'dumbing down' and the relative worth of A-levels. This year's students will be the first to receive the new A* grade.
Ofqual said it would bring A-levels and GCSEs into line with the world's hardest exams in a bid to restore employers' confidence in the qualifications.