University applications in Wales down 9.3%
Figures from university admission service Ucas show applications to higher education institutions in Wales are down on the previous year as the deadline approaches.
Some 9.3% fewer applications had been received from potential students up to the middle of December.
However, the figures also suggest there has been a late surge in applications.
The deadline for applications for anyone wanting to go to university in 2012 is 15 January.
Higher Education Wales (HEW) says students could be taking more time to consider their options in light of new fee arrangements.
Tuition fees around the UK are set to rise this year but students from Wales will have the increase paid by the Welsh government wherever they study.
However, the majority of applications for institutions in Wales are from prospective students from England.
HEW director Amanda Wilkinson said there had been a significant jump in applications between November and December 2011.
"We think this is good news and reflects the fact that the message about the deal for students coming to Wales is getting through and we would expect to see a further pick up in applications to the deadline of 15 January," she said.
"It is down on the previous year [but] of course we have to bear in mind that 2011 was a particularly strong year.
"It was only a few months ago we were talking about the numbers of young people not getting into university."
The latest Ucas figures show the picture for applications up to 19 December with final figures released on 30 January.
Applications from people wanting to go to university in 2012 are also down in England (7%), but have increased in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Overall in the UK, applications are down by more than 22,000 (6.4%) compared to this time last year, but Ucas said there had been evidence of a late rush.
Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: "Applicants are taking longer to research their choices but the applications flow has speeded up, as these statistics show.
"It remains too early to make predictions about the final year-on-year figures but we will be able to get a clearer picture after the deadline has passed."
Luke Young, NUS Wales president, added: "While it is too early to draw concrete conclusions, I suspect that the differences in tuition fee levels are influencing the choices that prospective students are making.
"The late surge in applicants to Ucas is likely to be a result of many people considering what options are best for them considering the different university funding models across the four nations of the UK."
The Ucas figures relate to all applications made to universities in the UK from both the UK and overseas.
Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge said it was very possible the late surge in applications would continue right up until the deadline.