Tens of thousands of would-be students are likely to be denied a place at university this autumn after another record year for applications.
Figures published by the university admissions service, Ucas, reveal that applications have risen by 11.6% on last year.
In total 660,953 people from the UK and abroad applied in time for the June 30 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 onto courses at English universities. If the numbers remain the same this year, this means that around 170,000 students will miss out, an analysis of the figures suggests.
Ucas said that changes to deadlines for art and design courses and a trend towards applying earlier may help to explain the high application figures.
The statistics also show that the number of women applying for a place at university has risen by 12%, while applications from men are up by 10%.
More older people are also seeking places, with applications from 21 to 24-year-olds up 14%, those from 25 to 39-year-olds up 22% and those from people aged 40 and above up 23%.
Mary Curnock Cook, Ucas chief executive, said: “As in previous years, we're seeing a rise in demand for undergraduate courses in the UK.
“Applications are up across the board — young people clearly see higher education as a good option for continued learning and career progression, international applicants are attracted by our world-class higher education provision, and we're also seeing more mature students apply.”
She added: “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. For those that don't meet the conditions of their offer this year, the Ucas team is here to offer information and advice to help applicants make the right choices.”