A survey of further education recruitment has shown colleges falling behind on their growth targets for full-time students.
But the Further Education Funding Council's analysis of recruitment during the 1994 autumn term also shows that planned increases for part-time students are being met.
Growth was measured in both enrolments and the funding units the FEFC will use to count full and part-time students together from next year.
The estimated 5 per cent growth in full-time enrolments this year, against a 9 per cent target, may indicate that demand for traditional full-time courses is slowing.
But the estimated growth in funding units was 9 per cent - much closer to the target of 11 per cent. It may mean colleges concentrate on part-time enrolment to meet their targets.
John Brennan, director of policy development at the Association for Colleges, said: "These figures show that the sector is not meeting the target the Government has set but there may be very good reasons."
The figures were released at the FEFC's annual conference in Birmingham, where colleges were praised by chairman Robert Gunn for their response to the "challenging" recruitment targets.
He said: "Meeting the growth target and raising participation levels will remain the council's primary focus. There is no ducking this. The funding arrangements will continue to reward most those colleges which reach their targets."
* Horticultural and agricultural colleges were shown in the survey to be the only institutions where unit growth was likely to exceed target this year. They were also the subject of a House of Commons plea by Conservative MP Marion Roe for more cash so students could afford to take up places.
Mrs Roe asked further and higher education minister Tim Boswell to introduce mandatory grants for horticulture students because a growing number were deterred by not receiving discretionary awards.
"The withholding of discretionary awards threatens the future of the excellent courses that are now available and the centres which provide them," she said.
Mr Boswell said he was concerned that some local authorities were "effectively throwing in the towel on discretionary awards". He planned to meet delegations from colleges soon but ruled out mandatory grants as too expensive.
Two men in a boat: A Leeds University crew take part in a race with a team from York University in a Viking longship regatta on the River Ouse, York. The event is part of York's annual Viking Festival.