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University entrants: Record 500,000 started courses in 2014

The number of UK university entrants passed 500,000 for the first time in 2014, with women still more likely to enter higher education than men, Ucas admissions service figures show.

Among 18-year-olds, 34% of women were allocated university places, compared with 26% of men.

The gap is more than 50% in a quarter of parliamentary constituencies.

The admissions figures also suggest more students with lower grades are getting places at top universities.

About a third of applicants getting BBB grades got places in "higher tariff" universities, about twice as many as in 2011.

There was also an increase in universities making unconditional offers to applicants they most want to recruit.

Wide variations

This year's university admissions figures show a rising tide of more applications, more offers and more accepted places.

Some 512,400 people secured places in UK universities and colleges through Ucas applications in 2014, up nearly 17,000. The number of UK students rose 3% to 447,500, and there was a record number of students from outside the UK.

But there were wide variations among the UK entrants.

Regional differences

While the gap between male and female is at its widest ever, the gap between rich and poor is at its lowest.

Record numbers of disadvantaged students are getting places in higher education, rising by 11% compared with last year.

These students were particularly likely to enter with BTEC qualifications, rather than A-levels.

Buyers' market

The admissions figures also show the growing competition between universities to attract students.

Universities are making more offers than ever before, 1.8 million this year, with students with high predicted grades getting four or five offers.

Students without A or A* grades at A-level were more likely this year to have got into a selective "higher tariff" university. For students with three B grades, 35% got places into a top-tier university, compared with 32% last year and 17% in 2011.