Of 24 constituencies in Merseyside, North Cheshire and West Lancashire, all registered a fall in applications – although in Liverpool Riverside, the total dropped by just 14 bids.
Young people from middle-class homes appear to be turning their backs on higher education in numbers as large as their peers from less prosperous backgrounds.
The figures were published ahead of a big student demonstration at Westminster tomorrow, the first since a series of violent protests when the Bill hiking fees was passed in 2010.
Liam Burns, president of the national union of students, said: “Families across the country are seeing their dreams of going to university disappear before their eyes.”
Most universities are charging close to £9,000 a year for courses, not the £6,000 predicted by ministers, after state funding for higher education was slashed.
But Whitehall sources said the 2011 total had been artificially inflated by students taking up places immediately – rather than taking gap years – to avoid higher fees in 2012.
And a BIS spokesman said: “Most students will not pay up front to study, there are more generous loans, grants and bursaries for those poorer families, and loans are only repaid once graduates have jobs and are earning over £21,000.”