Data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service today gives the first breakdown of 2012-13 student numbers by institution.
While there were a number of falls in the Russell Group, the biggest declines were elsewhere, with some institutions losing more than 20 per cent of their intake.
Bristol was the second biggest winner in England in percentage terms, benefiting from the AAB system allowing unlimited recruitment of students with those grades or better at A level. Bristol increased its intake of new students by 28 per cent, or 1,029 students, compared with 2011.
University College London was one of the other big winners in the Russell Group, again benefiting from AAB. It expanded its new student cohort by 21.6 per cent, or 780 students, although some of this rise was down to UCL's merger at the beginning of 2012 with the School of Pharmacy.
The other big increases in the Russell Group were at Cardiff University (up 669 students, or 13 per cent), King's College London (up 450 students, or 12 per cent) and the University of Edinburgh (up 523 students, or 11 per cent).
There were a number of losers in the Russell Group, for whom the struggle to attract students as ambitious rivals expanded under AAB will have been a factor.
Those in the group of research-intensive universities recording falls in student intakes were the University of Southampton (down 690 students or 13 per cent), the University of Liverpool (down 424 students, or 10 per cent), the University of Sheffield (down 486 students, or 9 per cent), the University of Birmingham (down 385 students, or 7 per cent), the University of Leeds (down 416 students, or 6 per cent), Imperial College London (down 151 students, or 6 per cent), Queen Mary, University of London (down 220 students, or 6 per cent), and the University of Manchester (down 253 students, or 3 per cent).
Elsewhere, London Met saw its intake fall substantially by 3,130, or 43 per cent, the biggest drop for any university. However, a London Met spokesman pointed out that the institution had recruited heavily in 2011-12, and the intake this year represented a much smaller drop when compared with 2010-11.
Among the other biggest drops were the University of Bolton (down 4 students, or 25 per cent), the University of Greenwich (down 1,189 students or 23 per cent) and Leeds Metropolitan University (down 1,819 students or 23 per cent).
Birkbeck College, University of London, was the biggest English winner in percentage terms, up 130 per cent, or 375 students.
Shabana Mahmood, Labour's shadow minister for universities and science, said the figures revealed "the true chaos that has been unleashed by this government".
Ms Mahmood raised concern about the economic impact on cities such as Manchester and Leeds, warning that falling student numbers will "do serious damage to cities that depend on universities to provide the essential skills and human capital needed to generate growth".
She added: "With every type of university reporting significant falls in students, including many in the Russell Group, this is a problem for all of higher education and shows once again how raising fees and implementing now-discredited student number control systems has done such damage."