|Scotland is the only part of the UK which has seen a rise |
A record number of Scottish students will start university this year, according to the latest figures.A total of 22,292 Scottish students have received places so far, a 3% rise from 21,630 in 2011.
About 3,000 applications are still being processed with more eligible for the clearing process.
The Scottish government said it defied criticism that some fee-paying students from England were being given places before their Scottish counterparts.
Critics have said the process is "unfair" as the number of places for Scottish students is limited by funding at some universities.
Scottish and EU students are exempt from tuition fees at Scottish institutions.
However, a loophole in EU regulations means that students from the rest of UK have to pay to study in Scotland.Universities are given set funding for the admission of Scottish and EU students.
Education Secretary Mike Russell told BBC Scotland: "There is an absolute line between those who go paid for by the Scottish government and those who regrettably are part of what is a deeply flawed system south of the border which will not succeed for the individuals and for the system.
"But there is no such competition and indeed the figures tell you that - 86% of places in Scottish universities are held by Scottish young people.
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) figures also show that Scotland is the only part of the UK which has seen a rise in university and college admissions.
A total of 35,781 pupils have been accepted to Scottish institutions to date, fractionally up by 244 on this time last year.
Meanwhile, applications to institutions in the rest of the UK are down by almost 8%, from 349,112 at the same admission stage in 2011 to 322,134 this year.
Mr Russell added: "Scotland is the only country in the UK to ensure young people, our workforce of the future, can go to university based on ability, not the ability to pay."