Tens of thousands of would-be students are likely to be denied a place at university this autumn after another record year for applications.
Applications have risen by 11.6 per cent on last year, according to figures published by the university admissions service Ucas. In total 660,953 people, including foreign students, applied in time for the 30 June deadline to start full-time undergraduate courses at UK institutions this autumn, compared to 592,312 at the same point last year.
The numbers applying include 542,908 UK and EU students who have applied for courses at English universities. These students are affected by a government cap on places, and ministers have said that only 8,000 extra places will be available for full-time undergraduates this September. The majority of those are for science and maths-based subjects.
Last year 373,793 UK and EU students were accepted on to courses at English universities. If the numbers remain the same this year, around 170,000 students are set to miss out.
Ucas said that changes to the deadlines for art and design courses and a trend towards applying earlier may help to explain the higher application figures.
The record rise in places comes at a time of financial pressure on universities. Universities have been told they must save £200m this year, on top of savings totalling around £1bn over the next few years.
The statistics also show that the number of women applying for a place at university has risen by 12 per cent, while applications from men are up by 10 per cent. More older students are seeking places too, with applications from 21 to 24-year-olds up 14 per cent; those from 25 to 39-year-olds up 22 per cent and those from people aged 40 and above up 23 per cent.
Applications from students in EU countries have risen by 22.3 per cent. Outside the EU, China has the highest number of people applying, with 9,393 applications submitted to UK universities, a 11 per cent rise on last year.
Mary Curnock Cook, Ucas chief executive, said: "I'm glad that increases are looking more manageable than earlier in the cycle, but this year's applications landscape is clearly more competitive than ever."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union,said: "Today's figures make frightening reading.
"Other countries are increasing the number of graduates to compete in a high-skill knowledge economy, yet our Government seems intent on doing the opposite. It is not scaremongering to talk about a lost generation of learners."Reuse content