By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent
Universities have warned of turning away thousands of applicants
The latest figures on university applications in the UK show a substantial increase - but at a lower rate than earlier in the year.
The figures from the Ucas admissions service show a 16.5% increase in applications for higher education courses beginning in the autumn.
An earlier set of provisional figures showed a huge surge of 23%.
This could still mean over 100,000 more applicants than last year chasing university places.
The final figures for applications in 2009 showed almost 640,000 total applicants - with 482,000 eventually accepted on to courses.
These latest figures for 2010 indicate an even higher level of applications - and a rising number of young people who will be turned away.
This growing demand comes on top of record numbers of students, with 45% of young people now going on to university. For the first time ever, more than half of all young women are going into higher education.
These latest figures from the admissions service, which will be updated later in the summer, are expected to be close to the final level of increase.
A Ucas spokesman says that the much higher figure of a 23% increase reported in January had been inflated by changes in some course deadlines, which meant some students had applied earlier, pushing up the year-on-year comparison.
Even at the reduced rate of 16.5%, universities face a big increase in applications.
It comes alongside the the tightening of university budgets - and a brake put on their expansion - as part of the pressure on public spending.
There have been promises of between 10,000 and 20,000 extra places from Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - but such an expansion will not meet this growth in demand.
There is no breakdown of this overall figure for 16.5% growth across all universities - with Ucas saying it would not give any detail or analysis during the general election campaign.
This decision to withhold detail was attacked by the Million+ group of new universities - which wants to know more about which courses and institutions are experiencing this growth.
"Students have a right to know what is happening and politicians on the campaign trail should be asked what more they will do to ensure that all those who are qualified get a place at university in September," said chief executive, Pam Tatlow.