Too few students and too many places are forcing Spanish universities to work harder than ever to attract entrants.
"In most state universities five years ago the word 'marketing' and the concept of students as clients was unheard of," said Jorge Dorado, director of marketing at Madrid's Carlos III University.
Demographic change coupled with a much-expanded higher education system has coincided with a shrinkage in the student-age population. Over the past ten years, the number of Spanish universities has risen from 46 to 66, as state universities were set up in provincial capitals and private universities appeared in big cities.
In October 1994, 305,000 new students entered Spanish universities. By October 2000, the new intake had shrunk to under 250,000.
Universities are now busy forging links with secondary schools. The Technical University of Catalonia has 200 staff liaising with schools.
Madrid's Carlos III is encouraging students and staff to act as ambassadors for the institution. Universities are also investing more in services and facilities for students.
Silvia Benaiges, a consultant at the Technical University of Catalonia, believes the next step will be to focus on non-typical students. This approach is being pioneered by the University of the Basque Country with its "experience classes" for people over 55.