England's university applications down 10%
There has been a 10% drop in the number of people from England applying to study in the UK when higher fees start, figures show.
The university admissions service, Ucas, says 46,413 fewer students from England have applied than at the same time last year.
The government said people still saw university as a good investment.
The UCU academics' union said the figures highlighted the recklessness of raising fees to £9,000.
Anyone wishing to apply after 30 June will have to do so through clearing.
The reduction in applications has remained steady for the past few months, according to admissions service, Ucas.
But these latest figures come a few weeks before the final deadline for regular applications to university. The main deadline passed in mid-January.'Financial barriers'
Overall, applications from the UK fell 7.7%. The drop was at its biggest in England, at 10%, where students are having to bear the full cost of their university education - albeit through government-backed loans.
In Wales, where students are partly subsidised, applicants dropped just 2.7%.
In Scotland, where applicants who have been living there for three years or more pay nothing, the drop was 2.2%.
Applications from Northern Ireland, where fees were pegged at 2011 levels, went down 4.4%. Students studying outside Northern Ireland have to pay full fees in other countries.
Universities Minister David Willetts said it was still not too late to apply for university, adding that last year more than 50,000 students applied after this point in the admissions cycle.
"Even with a small reduction in applications, this will still be a competitive year like any other as people continue to understand that university remains a good long-term investment in their future," he added.
General secretary of the University and College Union Sally Hunt said: "It should come as little surprise that applications in England are hardest-hit as a result of the government making it the most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree education.
"The number of older people being deterred from applying is particularly concerning. If we want to compete with other leading economies and produce highly-skilled workers we simply cannot afford to have a system that puts people off university.
"Erecting punitive financial barriers is not the way to encourage the best and brightest to get on. Do ministers really want to return us to a time when money, not ability, mattered most for success?"
A survey for the BBC in October last year predicted one in 10 people could be deterred from going to university by higher fees.