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19/08/2016 Joanna

Record numbers of students have been accepted onto university courses as college and sixth-form leavers up and down the country learn their A-level results.

Some 424,000 students have been accepted onto higher education courses so far this year - a three per cent increase on the corresponding figure recorded in 2015. The overall A-level pass rate remained unchanged at 98.1 per cent, despite a very marginal (0.1 per cent) dip in the proportion of A* and A grades.

Some 201,000 18-year-old applicants have been placed already - and this two per cent increase has given added significance when considered alongside the fact that the population fell by 2.3 per cent.

Young people in the UK are therefore four per cent more likely to have been placed on a university or college course starting in September than they were last year.

Acceptances increase for older age groups as well, with an eight per cent increase for mature students aged 25 or older.

Higher numbers of students from each of the four UK countries have been granted a university place that at this time last year, with the numbers at 307,200, 31,900, 16,600 and 12,000 for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

An 11 per cent increase in the number of students from the European Union (EU) brings that figure up to 26,800 this year, which is also the highest ever.

International acceptances have remained at roughly the same level as in 2015, with a modest 0.4 per cent increase to 29,300.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive officer of Ucas, the higher education application service, congratulated the nation's A level students on their success.

"This is a big day for hundreds of thousands of young people who have chosen to kick start their adult life with higher education - well done to all of them," she commented.

Some 27,400 more young women have already been placed at university compared to their male counterparts - although the gap has closed on 2015 levels.

"I'm particularly pleased to see the first small signs of improvement for young men, although they are still too far behind," Ms Cook remarked.

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