The number of would-be students from within the United Kingdom applying to university has dropped, according to latest figures.
Some 303,750 people have submitted applications to start studying for degrees next autumn, unchanged from a similar point the previous year, Ucas statistics show.
But UK-only applications have dropped by 1 per cent from 264,860 to 263,460, according to the organisation’s records.
The snapshot covers all of those who had applied for courses by Monday, December 16.
In England, 227,850 applications had been submitted by this point, down 1 per cent on the same month in the previous year, while applications in Northern Ireland were down 4 per cent to 10,100.
Applications in Scotland remained about the same on 14,110 while they went up by 2 per cent in Wales to 11,410.
The comparison shows that applications from outside the European Union have gone up by 5 per cent to 25,920.
Last month Chancellor George Osborne announced that the cap on the number of undergraduate students will be axed next year.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the university think-thank Million+, called on the Government to do more to promote the benefits of studying at university.
She said: “While many students will have spent time over the Christmas break working on personal statements it is clear that the rate of applications so far is lower than in 2013.
“If Ministers are serious about expanding opportunities and reaping the economic and social benefits of raising participation, then they need to do much more than fund additional student numbers.
“A good way to start the new year would be to commit funds to launch a campaign to promote the value of higher education.”
Students have until January 15 to submit applications to be given equal consideration by universities for a degree place.
A Ucas spokesman said: “We know that typically over 1 per cent of applicants recorded at the January 15 deadline apply each day around the December reference point.
“This means cycle to cycle comparisons in December can be particularly affected by calendar effects such as school term dates and the number of days remaining until the 15 January deadline.”
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said: “Applications are at the same level they were at this time in the 2013 application cycle, but it is still early in this year’s cycle and students have plenty of time to apply.
“Students will rightly want to make sure that they are making the best choices and consider carefully the information available to them, including data from the key information set.”