THE number of Scots ­applying to university north of the Border has risen to record levels.

Official figures show there were 166,240 applications this year compared to 159,260 in 2013 - a rise of 4%.

Although the figures show interest in a university education remains bouyant, the increase means tougher competition for places.

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In February, universities called on the Scottish Government to scrap fines for institutions that over-recruit on targets for student numbers. Student groups and lecturers have also called for extra places to be fully funded.

Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, welcomed the latest figures. He said: "I'm pleased to see the number of Scots applying to university remains at a record high this year in contrast with England, where application numbers have still not returned to the pre-tuition fee levels.

"Scotland's universities are among the best in the world and today's record figures show they are continuing to thrive."