RECORD numbers of Scots have secured a place at university this year.

New figures show 28,970 Scots will go on to higher education - up four per cent on the previous year.

Moves to widen access to students from the poorest backgrounds have also been given a boost.

This year, 4,340 students from the most deprived areas were placed – 14.6 per cent of all Scottish applicants - compared to 4,150 last year.

However, there was a decline in the number of students from the rest of the European Union following the Brexit vote - which makes the future for EU students much more uncertain.

The figures are produced by university admissions service UCAS every year to coincide with the release of Scottish exam results.

Liam McCabe, president of NUS Scotland, welcomed the rise in students from deprived backgrounds, but said further progress was required.

He said: “While it is encouraging to see a modest rise in the proportion of acceptances for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, we can’t lose sight of the fact there is much more to do to ensure more students from the poorest areas make it into higher education.

“We need to see every institution - without exception - pulling their weight to change the current culture and boost admissions for these students.”

Commenting on the fall in acceptances for EU students, he added: “As Brexit draws nearer the UK Government must work more closely with the Scottish Government and our universities and colleges to protect all students from the impacts of Brexit.”

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, also welcomed the figures.

He said: “These show we are making good progress on widening access with the number of students from Scotland’s most deprived areas accepted into university increasing to a record high for the third year in a row.

“This increase has been achieved at the same time as the total number of Scottish students from all backgrounds getting a place at a Scottish university has hit a new record.

“We know that there is still much to do in closing the attainment gap and in widening access, but this is welcome progress.”

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents principals, said the increase in Scots getting a place was “great news”.

He added: “A big success story which shouldn’t be ignored is the rising number of students from the most deprived backgrounds attending universities - this has more than doubled since 2009.”

John Kemp, interim chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said the figures showed positive progress in key areas.

He said: “These results show overall demand for higher education remains strong for Scottish students despite a decrease in the number of pupils in fifth and sixth year.

“A number of applicants are still waiting to be placed through the clearing process, so a fuller picture is likely to emerge at the end of the applications cycle in a few weeks.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said pupils should also consider the range of options available in further education - including courses that lead on to university.

She said: “We would urge those who have not yet decided what to do next to contact their local college for advice and support.

“Colleges are increasingly becoming the first choice for people as there are a wide range of opportunities that lead to successful careers or further study available at colleges across Scotland.”