Some 495,596 students were accepted to full time undergraduate courses, 6.6% up, and the highest total ever recorded, the UCAS 2013 End of Cycle Report has found.
Acceptances of UK students to UK institutions are also at a record level (433,612), 6.7% up, with young people and the most disadvantaged more likely to enter higher education than ever before.
Most of the increase relates to institutions in England (7.1%) and Wales (5.7%); institutions in Northern Ireland grew by 9.2% and those in Scotland by 1.5%.
An increase in 19-year-olds in 2013 pushed the overall entry rates for those who were 18 in 2012 up to 40%, a new high, and redressing the dip in entry for 18-year-olds in 2012.
More students were placed at their first choice of course, including a 20% rise in the number using Clearing as their first application route.
At English institutions, where the cap on recruitment was lifted for students with equivalent grades of ABB or better, the proportion of acceptances with these grades fell by 1%. There were increases in accepted students meeting the ABB threshold through BTEC (vocational qualifications), especially in lower and medium tariff institutions.
UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “Predictions of a reduced appetite for higher education following the rise in tuition fees were premature. With 19-year-old admissions up by 18% in England, we can see that the dip in demand in 2012 was perhaps a pause for thought – more of those who were 18 in 2012 have now started university than those who were 18 in either 2010 or 2011.
“Greater competition amongst institutions meant that aspiring students were able to choose from a record number of offers and were more likely than ever to gain a place on their preferred course, including through Clearing which was a genuine market place for all types of courses and institutions this year.”