Figures released yesterday by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) showed four million hits on its website between 19 August and 19 September, at least three times as many as for the previous year.
Of a total of 481,000 course searches, Manchester had 5,289, followed by Cambridge with 4,617. The most popular new universities were the University of the West of England and Oxford Brookes. The most popular subjects were business studies, law and computer science.
Tony Higgins, the Ucas chief executive, said: "The Internet has come of age this year. The enormous use of our websiteshows just how many people are now on-line."
Leeds, King's College London, Nottingham, Birmingham, Southampton, University College London, Imperial College London, and Bath University followed Manchester and Cambridge as the favoured universities in the online search.