University applications in the UK are up by nearly 7 per cent, according to the latest figures.
A total of 430,489 people had applied for a full-time undergraduate course at UK institutions by January 15, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said.
This represents an increase of 8.9 per cent on last year, but this year's figures include applications for nursing and midwifery diploma courses, which were not counted before. Excluding these additional applicants, the total rise is 6.7 per cent, or an extra 26,517 applicants.
This compares with a 6.4 per cent rise at the same time last year.
Anthony McClaran, chief executive of Ucas, said: "These figures show that for the second year running we are seeing strong growth in the level of applications for undergraduate courses. These figures provide an encouraging indication for the likely position in the summer and, of course, there will still be thousands more applications between now and then."
But there was bad news for Welsh institutions, which were hit with a drop in applicants of 10.7 per cent, with numbers decreasing from 59,705 in 2007 to 53,312 in 2008, and for Northern Irish institutions, which saw a fall of 5.3 per cent.
Applications to English institutions were up 9.2 per cent, and to Scottish institutions by 1.5 per cent.
Almost all subjects show a drop in applications, as a result of changes to the process, which meant that each applicant can make only five choices, compared with six in the past.
Despite this, a few subjects managed small increases in applications: economics, up 1.8 per cent; civil engineering, up 1.2 per cent; and journalism, up 2.3 per cent.
Law remains the most popular subject, pre-clinical medicine climbs from third to second place, while and psychology falls to third from second. English studies and management studies swap places and are now fourth and fifth most popular respectively.
Among degree subjects to suffer heavier drops in applications are anatomy, physiology and pathology, which fell 29.8 per cent; medical technology, which fell 18.8 per cent; and pharmacology, toxicology and pharmacy, which fell 16.2 per cent.
The number of applicants from outside the European Union is up 11 per cent, to 26,171, which compares with a 6.6 per cent rise the previous year.
The number of applicants from China has grown by 20.5 per cent, to 3,386.
A slight year-on-year change in the socioeconomic background of this year's cohort of applicants was recorded, with 29.6 per cent of applicants aged 18 or younger in 2008 coming from households in lower income groups, compared with 28.9 per cent in 2007.