Independent Commission for Fees chairman Will Hutton has told ITV News that a new report showing university applications down by 8.8%, is a "storm warning" that less students are "willing" to apply to university.
"The Tory-led Government’s decision to treble tuition fees at the same time as cutting funding for higher education is already putting thousands of people off university who otherwise would be eagerly preparing to start their courses".
Universities Minister David Willetts has defended the Government's decision to treble university tuition fees after independent experts said fewer younger people were applying for courses.
Speaking a week before A-level results are published, Mr Willetts said: "We do accept that after a peak last year, applications are down from 31.6% of people applying to university to 30.6%. That is actually still the second highest rate of applications on record."
Mr Willetts said the new system was still fairer and "much more like income tax", with repayment starting once students earn £21,000 a year.
An independent commission was set-up to establish whether there is any link between student numbers and tuition fees, which the Government has raised to a maximum of £9,000 a year.
Independent Commission for Fees chairman Will Hutton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:
University fees are not going up in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and the long-term trend of rising applications that we have seen in England is carrying on in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. There is a discernible difference.
The poll, published by the Independent Commission on Fees alongside its report, reveals that just under three-quarters of 15 to 17-year-olds in England say they are likely or fairly likely to apply to university.
More than a third (38%) said the overall cost of studying at a particular university would be a factor in their choice.
One in four (26%) said they would take tuition fees into account.
The applications cycle for the first group of students facing a new, hideously complicated and unstable funding system, scarce opportunity and high unemployment remains incomplete.
We don't yetknow whether or where those who have applied will study.
After next week's A-level results the clearing process will commence, and we remain concerned that applicants, particularly those from certain backgrounds, may not be in a position to choose whether and where to study, based on the right course and university for them.
– Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students