The figures show that, while there was a 0.9 per cent reduction in the total number of people applying to higher education, 18-year-olds are more likely than ever before to apply by the January deadline, 1 per cent more likely than in 2017.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "This small drop in applicant figures can be attributed largely to the fall in the number of 18-year-olds across the UK population. This group makes up half of all UK applicants to universities. But the demand for courses from 18-year-olds across the UK remains strong, highlighting the continued demand for university education. While the strong demand from 18-year-olds is positive, the continuing drop in mature applicants must be addressed by government if we are going to meet future skills needs. Changes to the way degrees in nursing, midwifery and some other allied health professions in England are funded, is also having an impact on overall application numbers, particularly from older age groups.
"As the latest survey from the Institute of Student Employers revealed, university graduates are in greater demand than ever. The graduate jobs market is expected to grow this year, with an estimated 11 per cent rise in vacancies. If the country is to thrive, particularly in the light of Brexit, it needs more, not fewer, skilled graduates. The benefits of getting a degree remain clear for individuals and for the economy and society."
Commenting on the EU and international applications, Alistair Jarvis added: "The increase in international applications shows that the UK remains one of the most attractive destinations in the world for talented, international students. But it is worth remembering that UCAS undergraduate application figures provide only a partial picture of what is going on in relation to international students. Nearly a half of international (non-EU) students study at postgraduate level, so will not apply via the UCAS undergraduate route. Of those who study at undergraduate level, only around 60 per cent are accepted via the UCAS route."
The figures relate to the numbers of undergraduate applications received by UCAS ahead of the 15 January deadline, which guarantees all applicants 'equal consideration' by their chosen universities and colleges. For the figures in full, visit the UCAS website