Almost half of the UK's top universities took on fewer students last year following the Government's radical overhaul of the system, figures show, but Bristol and Exeter Universities took on more students.
In total, 10 out of 24 Russell Group institutions, considered among the leading universities in the country, had fewer accepted applicants in 2012, according to data published by Ucas.
The statistics also show that a number of other universities saw a dramatic drop in students, including London Metropolitan University, which saw acceptances fall by more than 3,000.
An analysis of the Ucas data reveals that among Russell Group universities, Birmingham, Imperial College London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick all accepted fewer students last autumn, compared to in 2011.
The others - Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, King's College London, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Newcastle, Oxford, Queen's University Belfast, University College London and York - all took on more students in 2012.
The falls may be seen as a result of major reform of the higher education sector. Tuition fees were tripled last autumn, with English students now charged up to £9,000 a year.
Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have put measures in place to continue to subsidise their students' fees.
Under other radical changes, universities can now take on as many students as they like with at least two A grades and a B at A-level, an this is being extended this year to cover students with ABB.
Universities also had to hand back a certain proportion of their places, which were then bid for by institutions that kept their fees to £7,500 or less. These places are known as "core and margin" places.
Professor Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of the University of East London and chair of university group million+ said: "These figures take no account of the decline in interest in studying part-time. The need for the Government to launch a campaign to promote the value of higher education is now all too obvious."
Overall, there were 51,000 fewer accepted applicants in England alone, compared with the previous year, the figures show.