A record number of UK students from the poorest backgrounds have applied to go to university this year, figures show.
According to data published university admissions service Ucas, 28 per cent of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas have applied, compared to 26.4 per cent last year and 17.8 per cent in 2013.
The January deadline for applications saw the overall number of UK 18-year-olds applying increase by 5 per cent, from 306,200 in 2021 to 320,420 in 2022.
Record application rates for 18-year-olds were achieved in three of the four UK nations: 44.1 per cent in England, 37.5 per cent in Wales and 52.6 per cent in Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, the application rate of 35.4 per cent was the second highest after last year’s record high.
However, UK mature applicants fell by 17 per cent compared to 2021. The drop followed a surge in applications last year, when, at the height of the pandemic, mature applications jumped in one year by 24 per cent.
Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said the pandemic had led to universities putting more conferences and events online, which may have helped disadvantaged young people find out more about applying to university.
“The reach you can get with digital just opens up some of those options… including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, whereas previously they might have relied on something perhaps physical, or within a lesson or going to a conference,” she said.
Internationally, demand from Chinese and Indian students both soared. Applications from China grew by 12.1 per cent to 28,930 applicants, while those from India rose 11 per cent to 8,660.
Nigeria, which has been targeted by the Government as a growth country for international students, saw a 47 per cent increase in applications, to 2,380.
Ms Marchant said: “As we recover from the Covid pandemic and see the increased opening up of international travel, this year was always going to be pivotal for the international student market.
“Whilst applications have been very resilient throughout the pandemic, the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong shows the enduring appeal of our world-class universities.”