Fewer women across the UK have applied for university places for next year, the initial statistics indicate.
Students took part in a protest against fees on Sunday
There were 48,138 UK applicants for full-time undergraduate courses by 15 October, 309 (0.6%) fewer than in 2005.
This was 365 fewer women and 56 more men. Women have dominated the growth in student places in recent years and still account for 55% of the UK total.
With a jump in interest from other EU countries there were 59,983 applicants overall, up 102 (0.17%) on last year.
This first deadline of the annual round concerns primarily those wanting to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine/science, and applicants to Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The main deadline for all other courses and institutions is in mid-January, though people can apply at any time and are encouraged to do so.
APPLICANTS AT 15 OCTOBER
Early applications for all courses and universities showed 3.6% more people applying from outside the UK, and 6.96% more from other EU countries - with Poland up 28.5%.
- Oxbridge: 27,818, up 4.3%
- medicine: 19,559, down 2.89%
- dentistry: 3,114, up 6.97%.
- veterinary: 1,855, up 25.85%
The chief executive of Ucas, Anthony McClaran, said: "On balance, these first figures for 2007 entry are encouraging."
Education ministers will however be watching the wider picture, following the introduction of higher tuition fees.
The pattern of these is complex. There are now higher fees:
England's Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell asked Ucas for an unpublished breakdown, which showed that applications to English universities had increased slightly.
- in England and Northern Ireland
- from 2007 in Wales for applicants from other UK countries or elsewhere, outside the EU
- in Scotland for people studying medicine
He said: "These figures show the underlying trend in applications, after the small reduction last year and following a larger than usual increase the year before, continues to be upward.
"The critics of the new fees system, who claimed applications would plummet, are being proved wrong."
Ucas confirmed there had been 52 more applicants from England to English institutions, which was 0.1% more than last year - but cautioned that, statistically, this was such a small number it was unwise to read anything into it.
Applicants to England from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were down 9%, 2.1% and 4.3%.
Mr Rammell added: "It is vital students and parents are not put off by scaremongering stories.
"I am determined that all prospective students are armed with the facts in order to prevent them being deterred from going to university due to financial concerns."
The government has introduced more financial support for poorer students and no-one has to pay the fees until after they have graduated and are earning.
The National Union of Students president Gemma Tumelty said the government had portrayed the 2006 fall in university applications as "a glitch".
"We genuinely hope they are right. We do not wish to see any more students
missing out on the benefits a degree education can bring," she said.
"They may be able to pass off this year's drop in applications as a one-off,
but two years in a row would be a clear and undeniable reflection of the
negative impact that top-up fees are having on participation rates."
A spokesman for Ucas said the vast majority of applications still came in a rush just before the 15 January deadline, although November sees very heavy traffic on the service's website as people start inputting their details.