More students than ever have enrolled at British universities this autumn, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, writes Alison Goddard.
Some 18,000 more students have taken up a full-time place - many more than the 11,613 extra full-time places that were available through the English funding council.
The figures include students at institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the lion's share of expansion was thought to have taken place in English universities and colleges.
A spokesman for the English funding council said there could be differences in what was classified as higher education.
The figures buck the trend of the past seven years. Some 22,000 university places have gone unfilled since 1994. The only period of over-recruitment came in the year before tuition fees were imposed.
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge said: "It's great news to see a 5.5 per cent increase in the number of students from the UK accepting places on university and college courses compared with this time last year... Previous annual increases in acceptances were around 1 to 2 per cent."
The number of mature students is up 8.7 per cent on last year. From this autumn, they are entitled to a grant covering up to 85 per cent of the costs of childcare.
Demand for foundation degrees was low. Just 878 applicants were accepted onto 73 full-time courses.