RECORD numbers of applications have been received by Scottish universities, new figures show.

The number of Scots applying to university by January was 44,740, after a rise of more than 300 applications.

Figures from admissions service Ucas also show a rise of 4.3 per cent in interest from fee-paying students from England with 4,360 applications.

Students from the rest of the UK are increasingly crucial to universities here because they pay fees of up to £9,000 a year.

In addition, numbers are also up from international students and those from the rest of the EU.

The increase is welcome for universities, but it will also mean more students are likely to miss out because there are no plans for an expansion in places.

Angela Constance, the education secretary, said: "This is further excellent news for Scotland’s university sector which saw record-breaking levels of applications and acceptances in 2015.

"A new record number of applicants demonstrates real ambition on the part of Scotland’s young people and underlines our global reputation for excellence in higher education.

"Scottish domiciled students continue to benefit from free tuition, a key part of our work to ensure access to higher education remains based on the ability to learn not the ability to pay."

Ms Constance also welcomed increased international applications saying Scotland was becoming the "country of choice" in the UK for overseas students.

And she highlighted an improvement in applications from students from the country's poorest communities.