The number of students from outside the European Union planning to take up places at United Kingdom universities is up by 6.2 per cent on last year, according to figures released this week.
The rise is a result of increases in numbers of students from the Far East including Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and, in particular, China, which will be almost doubling last year's total by sending more than 1,000 students this year.
Malaysia will be sending 18 per cent more students compared with last year despite its government's attempts to discourage people from studying abroad.
There are also increases in the number of students from India, Pakistan, the United States, Sri Lanka and Ghana. By contrast, numbers from Singapore are down 16 per cent as a new university has opened there this year.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which released the figures, said there had been a fall in numbers of students from the EU, mainly because of a drop in numbers from Greece (down almost 20 per cent), where higher education is expanding, and the continuing decline in students from Ireland, down almost 10 per cent.
Overall, the figures show the number of applicants is down 0.4 per cent, but the number of accepted candidates is up 1.6 per cent. Ucas chief executive Tony Higgins said he welcomed the increasing numbers of students from outside the EU: "Ucas has been working with the British Council and the government to encourage more international students to study in the UK," he said.
The number of Scottish applicants gaining places across the UK is 2.6 per cent higher than at the same time last year. Mr Higgins said that universities and colleges were virtually up to date with processing applications and that any backlog was caused by problems with Scottish exam results.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority said this week that it had received 4,600 urgent examination appeals compared with 500 last year. SQA said it would process those candidates hoping to go into higher education by September 20. A spokesman for the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals said places would still be available for them.
Education minister Sam Galbraith told the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday that one of his officials would sit in on an inquiry into the SQA to be completed by October 31 by consultants Deloitte and Touche.