The figures show that applicant numbers for UK students are down by 5% compared to last year, and down 7% for EU students. Applicants to nursing courses have also seen a decline. Applicants from England making at least one choice to nursing have fallen by 23%.
Responding to the publication of the figures, Dame Julia Goodfellow , President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: "There seem to be a number of factors behind this decline in applicant figures. This includes the possible impact of the Brexit vote on EU applicants and changes to the way degrees in nursing, midwifery and some other allied health professions in England are funded.
"While the drop is not catastrophic, particularly given last year's record high, there is a need to address some issues urgently."
"The drop in EU applicants highlights the need to ensure that, following the vote to leave the EU, prospective European applicants are made fully aware of the fees and financial support arrangements well in advance of next year's cycle.
"The UCAS process for accepting applications for 2017 opened on 6 September last year, but the government guarantee on fees and financial support for EU students was not provided until 11 October 2016, only days before the first deadline in October. To avoid future uncertainty, we need the government to extend these transitional arrangements now for EU students considering applying for courses starting in 2018. Prospective European students will already be starting to consider whether to apply to study at British universities next year.
"It is important also that we make clear that European students continue to be welcome at UK universities and that their contribution to academic life is invaluable. More than 125,000 EU students are currently studying at universities across the UK and they make an important cultural and academic contribution to campus life.
"Given the strong demand, there is a big opportunity to attract more students to study in the UK. We need the government to take action to make the UK an even more attractive destination for qualified students and talented university staff from around the world."
"Given that 18 and 19-year-olds make up around 70% of all UK applicants to universities, the decline in this population group means an inevitable impact on applicant numbers. The rate of applications from this age group, however, remains strong, highlighting continued demand for university courses.
"Changes this year to the way degrees in nursing, midwifery and some other allied health profession course in England are funded means that an initial drop in applicant numbers had been expected. While demand for places on these courses remains strong, we must monitor the situation over the next year. Graduates in these skilled professions are in demand and they make an enormous contribution to our health and care services."
"The number of mature applicants is likely to have been affected by the rising number of people who have now already gained degrees while younger, as well increased employment and other training routes. It is important, however, that everyone with the potential and desire to go to university is able to do so.
"The benefits of getting a degree remain clear. Official data shows skilled graduates are still in a substantially better position to obtain a job and, on average, earn substantially more than non-graduates over a working lifetime."
The applicant figures are available from the UCAS website