The region’s universities are experiencing a boom in applications as greater numbers of school leavers opt to continue education rather than struggle in the recession-hit employment market.
The rise in applications, released by admissions service Ucas, was seen as encouraging when thousands of redundancies are announced weekly.
The Government said the 7.8 per cent increase by the main application deadline last month showed people valued a degree even in “challenging times”.
Higher education minister David Lammy said: “With nearly eight more people applying to university and colleges in England than this time last year, it is clear even in these more challenging times people recognise the value of a degree and the investment in their future career.”
The University of Birmingham laid claim to the biggest increase in applications in the West Midlands.
Roderick Smith, director of admissions, said: “We are delighted our applications are up 9.7 per cent which makes us the most applied-to university in the region.”
The University of Warwick reported a 3.8 per cent rise, an additional 1,300 students, as well as 1,150 more applicants for Masters degrees.
Spokesman Peter Dunn said: “We have seen an increase from home students for Masters degrees of five per cent, but the figure from overseas applicants is up 40 per cent. This is directly attributable to the recession as a lot of people are looking to take a year out and boost their CV.”
Aston University reported 12,830 applications for 2,000 places by February 1, an increase of 2.3 per cent.
A spokesman said: “Many courses are significantly up including engineering, English language, biomedical science, chemistry and law.
“This year, we’ve increased again our entry requirements for many courses. The average entrant to Aston in 2008 achieved between ABB and BBB from their best three A levels.”
The latest Ucas figures emerged after universities secretary John Denham last month confirmed additional student numbers would be capped at 10,000.
It was thought 15,000 extra places could be made available but the Government underestimated the numbers eligible for student grants.
The latest rise followed last year’s record-breaking applications which numbered more than 430,000.
And last month, Ucas announced a 10.4 per cent rise in students accepted on to courses in 2008.
Universities UK, which represents heads of universities, welcomed the growth in applications but called on the Government for financial support.
Chief executive Diana Warwick said: “These are very encouraging figures. Applicants are making informed choices and thinking carefully about the value of higher education. We also note the increase in mature applicants. It’s an individual choice, but we are encouraged people are looking to upskill in a difficult time for the jobs market.”
National Union of Students president Wes Streeting said: “It is hugely encouraging to see a record-breaking number of applications, but we remain concerned about the numbers of places available as a result of the cap on numbers imposed by the Government.
“Unless there is an urgent expansion of places, universities will be unable to meet this demand.”