The number of people applying to UK universities has dropped by almost 8 per cent as students face the first year of tuition fees of up to pound;9,000 per year.
Applications by Scottish students have seen the smallest drop - 2.1 per cent - compared with a 10 per cent fall in applications from students living in England, according to figures from the university admissions service UCAS.
This is likely to be connected to the Scottish government's pledge to keep higher education free for Scots studying in Scotland. They would only incur fees if studying elsewhere in the UK.
More than 50,000 fewer applications were received by UCAS in 2012, compared with 2011, partly down to an overall drop in applications from other EU nations. European students pay the same fees as local students, so faced a significant rise in fees in England.
Applications to Scottish universities have remained stable, with the decrease in those applying from England and Northern Ireland (who have to pay fees here) offset by an increase in applications from outside the UK. EU students pay no fees. The number of Scottish applications was similar to last year.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, convener of the education committee, said: "The evidence from UCAS is clear, the burden of stratospheric tuition fees imposed by the UK Government in England is driving many young people away from studying.
"Young Scots and their families can rest assured that the SNP will never introduce tuition fees for the people of Scotland."
Graeme Kirkpatrick, NUS Scotland vice-president, said the drop in mature students applying to study in Scotland was worrying.