The report by the Independent Commission on Fees shows that the fall in applicant numbers in England has not been replicated in other parts of the UK.
Both Scotland and Wales have seen a rise (1% and 0.3% respectively) while Northern Ireland saw 0.8% fewer applicants.
The report concludes: "The decline in English applicants from the 2010 level was 8.8%, as compared to a nearly-constant level from the other home nations across this period. This may indicate a link between the level of tuition fees and the numbers of applicants.
The Independent Commission on Fees, established in January to monitor the impact of the fee hike, compared UCAS application figures in 2010, before the new payments regime was announced, with those of 2012, the first year that students will be directly affected.
The total number of people applying to English universities in 2010 was 421,448, and has fallen to 384,170 this year.
Among 18 and 19-year-old applicants, there was a fall from 298,155 in 2010 to 276,629 in 2012: a drop of 7.2%.
Applicant numbers are also down compared with 2011.