A record number of overseas, non-EU students have applied to study in the UK through Ucas in 2019.
The overall number of applicants under the age of of 21 rose for the first time since 2016.
A 30% rise in prospective students from China, to nearly 20,000, means they outnumber those from Northern Ireland for the first time.
EU applicants also rose, by 1%, while the number of non-EU bids grew by 8%.
A record number of 18-year-olds in England submitted an application. Welsh applicants of that age rose marginally (0.2%), while Scotland and Northern Ireland both registered a decline, the latter by 0.7%.
Applicants from the most deprived areas leapt by 6%, while those from the least deprived areas fell.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “The global appeal of UK higher education has never been clearer, with record, demographic beating application rates in England and Wales, and the steep rise in international applications, especially from China.
“Today’s analysis shows how attractive undergraduate study continues to be for young people, although university isn’t the only route on offer. Our survey insight shows that around a quarter of students are interested in apprenticeships as an alternative option.”
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “It is very good news that 18 year-olds in England are more likely than ever before to apply to university and positive to see further progress in the amount of applications from young people living in deprived areas. Employer demand for graduates continues to rise – educating more people of all ages at university will grow the economy faster, by increasing productivity, competitiveness, and innovation. Growing the number of graduates will enhance social mobility.
“Our universities have a well-deserved global reputation for high quality teaching, learning and research, delivered by talented staff while students report rising levels of satisfaction with their courses. This is recognised by the increase in the number of international student applications – a record rise from outside the EU – which will bring significant economic benefits to the whole of the UK and enrich our university campuses.”