The overall number of people who have applied to UK higher education courses for 2018 has dropped by around 11,000.
Ucas believes the 2% drop, bringing the total to 590,270 compared to the same point last year, is due to there being 18,000 fewer 18 year-olds in the UK population along with fewer applications, especially for nursing courses, from older UK-based students.
The figures are from the analysis of all full-time Ucas undergraduate applications made by March 24, the application deadline for some higher education courses in art and design.
It shows there are now 46,040 EU applicants, up by 2% from last year, and the number of applicants from other overseas countries has increased by 8% to 65,440, the highest on record.
Despite the overall decrease, Ucas reports there has been a record proportion of English 18-year-olds applying to higher education.
There are currently 230,320 of these applicants which amounts to a rate of 37.8%, up by 0.3% from 2017.
Ucas also said that the application rates when compared to 2017 figures from UK 18-year-olds has remained unchanged among those from Northern Ireland at 47.6%, has dropped by 0.2% to 32.6% from students in Scotland and is also down by 0.3% to 32.4% in Wales.
Overall, there are currently 392,990 higher education applicants from England, which is down 4% from 2017 and 18,970 from Northern Ireland which is down 5%.
Ucas also said there are 46,620 from Scotland, which is down less than 1% from 2017, and there are 20,220 applicants from Wales which is down 3% from 2017.
It also notes there are now 43,700 nursing course applicants, which is 10% less than this time last year. These include 31,750 applicants who are English – which is 14% lower than at this point in 2017, according to Ucas.
Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said the figures reflect “the enduring attraction of a full-time degree for young people, and the desirability of UK higher education to students from around the world”.
She said: “Whilst this is undoubtedly good news, we must not overlook the continuing fall in applications from older UK students, particularly to study nursing.
“We would like to see the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding in England address specifically the needs of mature students who wish to develop their potential through higher education, whatever subjects or types of study they are interested in. ”
She noted that most universities and colleges will still be receiving applications.
Students can still make applications via Ucas until June 30, when clearing begins.
Ucas expects to publish a comprehensive picture of the full 2018 admissions cycle in December 2018.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is good news that we continue to see record rates of 18-year-olds applying to go to university this year.
“We want to ensure everyone who wants to has the opportunity to benefit from a university education, regardless of their background.
“But we recognise that university is not the right option for every school leaver. That is why we are transforming apprenticeships and technical education, including introducing new T level qualifications, to give people high quality options that are right for them.”