Ucas had received a total of just over 344,000 applications by 20 December 2010, a rise of almost 8,300 on the same period the year before.
In England, where the 2011-12 academic year will be the last before the undergraduate tuition fee cap increases to £9,000, applications were up by 3.3 per cent. In Wales, applications grew by 1.7 per cent.
But in Scotland applications fell by 15.2 per cent year-on-year, and in Northern Ireland they were down by 0.4 per cent.
The biggest surge in applications happened in November, when the tuition fees row was reaching its peak, with 20.4 per cent more applications made that month than in November 2009.
Subjects seeing the biggest rises in applications were those allied to medicine (up 18.5 per cent), veterinary science and related disciplines (11.8 per cent), and education (9.2 per cent).
The largest drop was in linguistics, Classics and related subjects (down 5.1 per cent).
Meanwhile, applications made by residents of other European Union countries rose by 7.9 per cent. Those made by residents of non-EU countries grew by 5 per cent.