Demand for places at Britain’s universities is so great that many of the country’s top academic institutions are paying students to stay away.

At the University of Exeter, potential medical students are being offered £10,000 and guaranteed first-year accommodation — worth up to £7,600 — to defer their place for a year.

Under the Department of Education scheme run in collaboration with the Medical Schools Council (MSC), which represents the heads of 44 establishments, students holding offers to over-subscribed schools — capped by the government — will receive an “inconvenience” fee of £10,000 if they move schools.