Overall, the total number of students entering higher education in 2016 reached 535,200, an increase of 0.5 per cent (2,900) on 2015 and the highest number recorded.
Responding to the figures, Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK, said: "It is good to see that acceptances to university have increased again this year, despite there being a population decline for this age group. Record numbers are also being accepted by their first choice institution and entry rates for disadvantaged young people in England, Scotland and Wales are at their highest levels.
"It is clear that higher education is still in demand and is viewed as an excellent choice for many people. Graduates enjoy better employment prospects and, on average, earn more than non-graduates. Success in higher education, however, should not simply be measured by how much graduates go on to earn. A degree also helps students develop a range of important life skills, including the ability and analyse and present evidence. Graduates make a hugely significant contribution to society and the economy, setting up businesses and developing careers in nursing, the charity sector and the arts.
"While there has been progress in widening participation to universities, there is still work to be done in this area. Universities are committed to improving education and career outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, as Universities UK's recent report on social mobility demonstrated, there can be no quick and easy solutions to entrenched social disadvantage. Effective responses must be evidence-based and involve long term and sustained collaboration across different sectors."
1. Universities UK was asked to produce a report after the announcement of a series of 2020 goals last year by the former prime minister David Cameron, which were designed to improve social mobility. This commitment to improving people's life chances has continued under the new prime minister Theresa May. In her first speech in July 2016, Mrs May made a renewed commitment to tackling 'social injustices', referring to the criminal justice system, universities, schools and the workplace. The report has been sent to the Secretary of State Justine Greening MP and the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP.