More EU students apply to UK universities but home nation applications fall
Rising numbers of EU students are applying to UK universities but the number of applicants from home nations has fallen, new figures show.
Statistics published by admission service Ucas show that overall 593,720 would-be undergraduates have submitted applications to start degree courses this autumn - up 0.2% on the same point last year.
But a breakdown of the figures reveals that the number of UK students to apply by the main January 15 deadline dropped slightly - by 0.3%.
This is down to a 1% fall in the number of English applicants - mostly aged 20 to 34, Ucas said.
Applications from students in Northern Ireland have increased by 2%, and gone up by 1% in both Scotland and Wales.
At the same time, 45,220 people have applied from the EU, the statistics show, up 6% on the same point last year.
According to a Ucas analysis of the statistics, application rates among UK 18-year-olds alone are at record levels.
Ucas chief Mary Curnock Cook said: "Our report shows further growth in demand for higher education but the declining 18-year-old population and a decrease in older applicants means the actual number of UK applicants available for universities to recruit remains flat."
The latest figures also show that the difference in application rates between the sexes has reached a record high, with applications from women far outstripping those from men.
In England, young women are now 36% more likely to apply for a degree course, and among disadvantaged young people, women are 58% more likely to apply.
Ms Curnock Cook has previously raised concerns about the gulf, warning last month that despite clear evidence of a growing gender gap, there has been "deafening policy silence" on the issue.
The latest figures also show a 5% increase in disadvantaged young people in England going on to higher education, while in Scotland the numbers have risen by 2% and in Wales they are up 8%. In Northern Ireland, the numbers have fallen by 4%.
In general, richer students are still 2.4 times more likely to apply to university than their poorer classmates.
Professor Les Ebdon, director of fair access to higher education, said: "I welcome these figures, which show that greater rates of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are applying for higher education than ever before.
"This is part of a sustained trend over the last decade. Compared to 2006, the application rate for 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has increased by 80%.
"Today's announcement shows the value of the long-term work universities and colleges are doing to raise aspirations and attainment among people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"This work - which includes summer schools, academic mentoring and homework clubs - has helped to substantially increase the pool of applicants from which universities can choose. However, too many people are still missing out on higher education, despite having the potential to succeed."
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "Despite the scaremongering, this data shows that young people are applying to university at a record rate, with applications from the most disadvantaged students at a record high.
"These figures show that our ongoing reforms are working and more people now have the opportunity to get to university. But there is still more to do to boost social mobility, which is why we have announced plans for a new transparency duty on universities to shine a spotlight on their admissions process."