Students at the Winterbourne International Academy react as they open their A-level results Getty

A record number of students have already been accepted on to their chosen higher education courses, a rise of 3% from A-level results day in 2014. More than 409,000 students already know they have been accepted into a university or college as of 12am on 13 August, around 13,000 more than the same period 12 months ago.

According to Ucas figures, there will be more 18-year-olds attending university than any other year but fewer acceptances from older age groups. The figures show there will also be 27,000 more young women from the UK starting university than young men and a rise of 4% of students from less advantaged backgrounds. The rise follows on from the government scrapping the limit on the number of places universities can offer, resulting in students being more likely to find a place to study.

Mary Curnock Cook, Ucas chief executive, said: "More UK 18-year-olds will benefit from higher education in 2015 than in any year previously. More students in total have been placed at their first choice, an increase of 3% on 2014. This is an impressive outcome, given the slightly slower growth in the UK application rate."

Elsewhere, the number of students achieving the top grades for their A-levels has fallen for the fourth year in a row but the overall pass rate has risen.

As thousands of teenagers are opening their exam results, figures show the total number of students who were awarded A* or A grades in their subjects fell by 0.1% from 2014 but the number of the highest A* grades awarded remaining the same across all subjects at 8.2%.

However, the overall A* to E pass grades has risen, after falling in 2014 for the first time in 30 years, to 98.1% – the same figure as 2013, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Boys have achieved a higher number of A* results for the fourth year in a row, with 8.7% achieving the top mark compared with 7.8% of girls, but girls were strongest performers overall by 1%. Maths remains the most popular A-level at 10.9% of all entries, followed by English at 10.5% and biology third on 7.4%.

Record numbers of students have already secured a university place Getty

There was also a rise in the number of entries from "facilitating subjects", which are often favoured by institutions. The number of students taking lessons in these subjects rose by 0.8%, with the rise mainly coming from an increase in the number of pupils taking geography (up 4,188), history (up 3,717) and English literature (up 3,393).

Cherry Ridgway, curriculum and assessment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the increase in students taking facilitating subjects could be due to a lack of choice for students and a desire to get into top universities.

She said: "I think students are looking carefully at the subjects they need to get into university and schools are helping them with good careers advice to look at what qualifications they need to take the next step. Schools are getting better at that and students are getting better at that.

"But there is also this element of some subjects not being able to be offered by schools due to funding pressure post-16. Particular subjects that stand out this year are significant drops in music and German, which show a bit of a worrying trend and one we might expect to get worse going forward given the increase of funding pressures on schools."

Michael Turner, JCQ's director general, said: "Today we should all celebrate the excellent achievements of students and teachers across the country and congratulate them on their efforts. The overriding message from this year's figures is one of stability. There have been no significant changes to the system, results are stable and entries follow expected patterns.

"Students can be confident that they have received the results they deserve. Each year, standards are maintained through awarding organisations' collective work on comparability and effective independent regulation."