The number of students accepted on to degree courses at UK universities is down 1.3% compared with last year, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
The latest Ucas figures show that 437,070 people from the UK had found courses as of midnight, about 20,700 fewer than had been placed at the same point last year.
The statistics also reveal that more would-be undergraduates have found a place through clearing compared with last year, with the numbers put through the system up by 6%.
The figures show 11,180 students have found places through clearing so far this year, the day after the process opened. Clearing is the annual system that matches students without degree places, such as those who failed to meet the entry requirements for their chosen course, with courses that still have availability.
For those candidates still to find a place, there are indications that there has never been a better time to enter clearing. The number of students free to be placed in clearing is down 12% (about 18,000 people) compared with last year, the figures show.
The drop in acceptances and numbers eligible for clearing means many options are available for students still hoping to start degree courses this autumn, with the majority of universities, including many top Russell Group institutions, entering clearing to try to recruit good candidates.
There have been reports that a number of universities are lowering their entry requirements to attract students.