The explosive growth in popularity of some of the UK's smaller and specialist institutions is highlighted in a report this week from their representative body, GuildHE.
Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service released last week show that the number of individual applicants to UK universities and colleges is up 6.4 per cent on the same time last year (excluding nursing and midwifery diploma applicants, who are included in the figures for the first time this year).
An analysis based on last week's figures for individual institutions by GuildHE shows that applications to specialist institutions and to newer universities represented by the group have grown on average by 30 per cent in the five years since 2003.
Applications to St Mary's University College have more than doubled, from 2,608 five years ago to 5,355 this year.
At the University of Worcester, applications increased by nearly 99 per cent, from 4,242 to 8,483.
Across the sector, the number of applications rose in the same period by 7 per cent, from 2,046,131 to 2,189,660, the GuildHE report says.
David Baker, chair of GuildHE, attributed the increased popularity of his member institutions to the "focus on learning and teaching" that smaller institutions are able to offer. "The data show the benefit for students of having a diverse sector that gives choice," he said.
Meanwhile, the Ucas figures show that the number of students travelling to the UK from overseas has risen by about 5,000 year on year.
Shifts in the proportions of students from key countries include a significant increase in the number of Chinese entrants, but much smaller growth in numbers from India and the US.
The total number of students from overseas rose by 6.4 per cent, from 73,870 in 2007 to 78,594 this year.
Of these, the majority were from outside the European Union, with the largest number coming from China, up by almost a quarter from 6,423 to 7,880.
However, other trends may be seen as less auspicious for a sector that relies heavily on income from overseas students, a market worth about £3.7 billion a year.
The number of students from India, seen as a key country, has risen by 1.7 per cent, to 2,413, and the number from the US increased by 1.5 per cent, to 2,581.
Meanwhile, the number of students applying to UK universities from Nigeria, which has been hailed by some as an increasingly significant source of students, fell from 3,106 to 2,807, a drop of almost 10 per cent.
|Growth in applications from 2003 to 2008|
|Norwich School of Art and Design||822||1,453||77|
|Newman University College||1,8||2,572||41|
|St Mary’s University College||2,608||5,355||105|
|University of Worcester||4,242||8,483||99|
|Arts Institute Bournemouth||2,629||4,965||89|
|Royal Agricultural College||489||830||70|
|Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts||3,070||4,306||40|
|Source: GuildHE analysis from University and College Admissions Service figures|