A RECORD number of pupils in Scotland have secured a higher education place for later this year.

Some 30,350 applicants have been accepted into Scottish universities and colleges - a five per cent increase on last year.

Overall, 24,480 Scottish applicants won a place in UK higher education, up 1,050 or four per cent on the same stage last year, with the majority placed at institutions north of the Border.

Most of these pupils will have applied to university in January on the basis of their Highers results last summer, returning to school to complete Advanced Highers or further Highers in sixth form.

However, although many will have secured unconditional offers on the basis of last year's results, some with conditional offers were waiting for this year's exam results, which were sent to pupils yesterday.

For those who missed out on their grades it promises to be another competitive year for spaces on the remaining university courses through the Univers­ities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) clearing system, which matches available places with students.

Places are available for Scots on 383 courses at 12 institutions, including Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh, the Dumfries and Galloway campus of Glasgow University, Heriot-Watt, UHI, Queen Margaret, Stirling, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland.

More Scottish universities will go into clearing for students from the rest of the UK (rUK), who have not yet received their A-level results.

The Ucas website shows about 1,445 courses at 15 institutions have places available to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who now pay fees of up to £9,000.

The institutions looking to recruit most fee-paying students are Glasgow University, which has 524 courses available to rUK students, Strathclyde, which has 234 available courses, and Edinburgh Napier, which has vacancies on 167 courses.

However, that does not mean Scots are missing out because the vast majority - some 96 per cent - have no need to go into clearing because they already know their exam results when they apply.

In contrast, rUK students apply before knowing A-level results and are given conditional offers, so they are more likely to use clearing to get a place if results do not match expectations. In previous years, far more Scots get places through clearing than the rest of the UK.

Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "Scotland's young people can be incredibly proud of their achievements after putting in so much hard work and thousands will now be moving into a fresh challenge. It is great news so many have already been accepted to a Scottish institution.

"Of course, some young people will not have got what they wanted today and clearing is now open with hundreds of places available."

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said the increasing number of pupils securing Highers might create some extra pressure on the system, with more of those in S6 doing better than expected. There could also be pressure for university entry in 2015/16.

The Scottish Government has already announced plans to relax the current system where universities that over-recruit can get fined.

Mr Sim said: "We know pupils have put in a strong performance in their Highers with a greater number taken and more results at the top-end of achievement building on already strong competition for university places.

"The indication the Government is prepared to exercise flexibility around entry this year and next may well help institutions manage high demand and honour the offers they have made."

A spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland said the further education sector also offered a wide range of courses across both traditional and emerging industries, such as renewable energy, engineering, life sciences and creative industries, from entry level up to degree qualifications.