Statistics show that 62 per cent of the age group in 2000-2001 were pursuing further studies, in contrast with 44 per cent in 1990-91.
The proportion of 17-year-olds staying on has increased by 11 per cent from 29 to 40 per cent.
As before, more young women than men continue in higher education, with 31 per cent of the age group involved compared with 25 per cent of males.
Irene McGugan, the SNP deputy education spokeswoman, called on the Executive to investigate the growing gender gap in full-time higher education. "Young people are a resource for the future and we need to ensure young men are participating in equal numbers," she said.