The number of people who are applying for UK university places this autumn is up by 3.4 per cent to more than 350,000.
The total applying from within the UK is up 2.2 per cent on last year to 316,000, according to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service released this week.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "This rise shows that we are absolutely right to create a higher education bill that will expand rather than contract the higher education sector."
There has also been significant growth in the number of people who are applying from overseas. Some 32,000 applicants were from outside the European Union, up 18 per cent.
Anthony McClaran, the chief executive of Ucas, said he was "enormously encouraged" by the overseas increase. Universities are keen to welcome students from this group because, unlike home and other EU students, the fees they pay meet the cost of tuition.
UK universities are also increasingly popular with students from elsewhere in the EU, with the number of applicants up 16 per cent to just under 20,000.
- Collaboration between Scotland's higher education institutions to promote themselves abroad has paid off, with a per cent rise in overseas students over the past year, writes Olga Wojtas.
This compares with a 22 per cent rise for the UK as a whole, and 21 per cent for England.
The figures come from Education UK Scotland, an initiative managed by the British Council to promote Scottish education overseas.
It said that this was the highest recorded rise in international students since its launch in 1996, and it expected numbers to rise even higher as a result of initiatives by the Scottish Executive.