First rise in UK university applications for three years - but Northern Ireland slumps
UNIVERSITY applications are on the rise for the first time in three years - except in Northern Ireland.
Admissions service Ucas has published analysis of applications for full-time undergraduate courses starting in September 2019.
The number of 18-year-olds from the north seeking places at UK institutions slumped for the third straight year.
There are now almost as many young people from China applying as there are from the north, the research found.
Across Britain and Northern Ireland more than half a million (561,420) teenagers sought degrees, up 2,500 from 2018, and a first increase in three years.
In England, 38.8 per cent of the 18-year-old population applied - a 1.4 percentage point increase.
This came alongside a 1.8 per cent fall in the number of 18-year-olds in England, demonstrating a growing demand for higher education, Ucas said.
In Scotland, the rate remained at 32.5 per cent while in Wales it rose slightly to 32.2.
Northern Ireland had the highest rate at 46.8 per cent, although it was the only region where it decreased - falling from 47.5 last year.
The total number from the north applying to UK institutions dropped for the third year in a row, from 20,400 in 2016 to 17,910.
EU applicants increased to 43,890, and non-EU applicants increased by 9 per cent to 63,695 across the UK.
Although EU numbers rose overall, they fell in Northern Ireland.
The number of applicants from China increased by a third - rising to 15,880. This brought Chinese applicants to almost the same level as those from Northern Ireland.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said it was welcome to see more EU and international students wanting to take degrees in the UK "in this time of uncertainty".
"Alongside this, demand from UK 18 years old students remains strong, despite the falling numbers of this age group in the population. The unexpected rise in the application rate from English 18 year olds, against the population trend, signals they still recognise the challenge and rewards of full-time undergraduate study," she said.
"However, interest in our apprenticeships hub and our insight research shows that almost a quarter of this age group are also considering an apprenticeship at the same time, and we can expect students to keep their options open.
"In addition, it's important to remember that students can still apply until June 30, and afterwards directly to clearing. And we know that mature students are more likely to apply later in the year."