Institutions doing very well or very badly in the applications battle were asked for their comments.
Steve Kendall, head of admissions at Luton University, where applications are down by 23 per cent: "We recruit continually throughout the year. We have experienced (a downturn in applications) before and we have never yet under recruited. We know we recruit a significant proportion of mature students, and we think that they are more thoughtful about entering higher education under the new funding arrangements."
Mary Lord, registrar at Liverpool Hope University College, where applications are down by 22 per cent: "I am not complacent and would be happier if there were more applications in by this point, but I am not pessimistic.
Where we have suffered is in mature applicants and people from poorer and deprived areas, who now feel that higher education might not be for them. They perceive a financial disincentive."
John Craven, vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, where applications are down by 12 per cent: "We are concerned about it. We need to find out why applications are down - is it because we are a new university? Is it because we are in the south?
Or is it because we offer engineering and science courses? Once we have found out why, then we can do something about it."
A spokeswoman for the University of Glamorgan, where applications are down by 12 per cent: "We are aware that applications are down but it is too early to tell why. When push comes to shove in September, the situation may well be different. It may well just be a blip."
Martin Harris, vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, where applications are down by 11 per cent: "Clearly any reduction in the number of applications is disappointing, but there is evidence that those who did not apply are those whose A levels
would not have been good enough anyway. There does appear to be a reduction in the number of applications from the southeast to northern universities and we will clearly address that as a matter of urgency.
But there are fewer applications to Oxbridge than anywhere else and that doesn't mean they are no good."
Ray Cowell, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, where applications are down by 11 per cent: "We are not concerned - on the contrary, we are pleased. Across the board we have raised our entry standards, and only able students are applying this year."
Graeme Upton, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, where applications are up 5 per cent: "The Times has put us at the top of new universities and moving up against the old universities. We also have very flexible courses. Students can mix subjects in a way that is not always possible at other universities and can tailor-make them for careers. We have done well in the employment stakes."
A spokesman for the University of the West of England, where applications are up by 7 per cent: "We have a strong teaching rating and the latest Times league table places us above many traditional universities for our teaching.
"We saw a drop of 14 per cent in mature students last year against the national average, and my gut feeling is that we will see the same this year. But a lot of students are being attracted to the southwest and we offer certain subjects that appear to be a popular degree choice."
David Packham, secretary-registrar at Aston University, where applications are up 9 per cent: "It is because of the nature of our programmes at Aston and the applied nature of them.
"It is also the fact that three-quarters of our programmes are sandwich courses and students have a year out and that we are always in the top two or three in terms of employment record."
David Wallace, vice-chancellor of Loughborough University, where applications are up 10 per cent: "We have had extremely positive teaching quality assessments in the past three years and we have very good graduate employment. Our degrees retain significant relevance."
Jonathan Nicholls, academic registrar at the University of Warwick, where applications are up by 12 per cent: "We think our continued success in league tables over the years means that Warwick is gaining a reputation.
We like to think that we have well thought-out courses that get students into jobs. We are attracting more students even in the hard sciences but in terms of mature students, we are seeing a decline."