The difficulties of adapting the new school curriculum to university entry requirements could compound recruitment problems.
Institutions could find young people deferring entry, or starting and then dropping out, amid confusion over the Curriculum 2000 qualifications and how universities use them when stating entry requirements and making offers of places.
Difficulties with Curriculum 2000 already mean that the Universities and Colleges Entry Guide , published annually by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, will be delayed by a month until mid-June.
This leaves year 12 pupils just four weeks before the end of term to search for and identify the universities and courses they will apply to in the autumn.
Curriculum 2000 has introduced vocationally oriented advanced subsidiary (AS) levels, advanced extension awards (AEAs) and key skills in schools. The aim is to broaden the range of subjects pupils take and to provide a vocational qualifications route, mirroring the traditional academic path, stretching from AS level to foundation degree.
Adapting entry processes to incorporate the new qualifications has not been the top priority at some institutions. Some universities have not been won over by the new qualifications and have said they will continue basing offers on traditional A levels.
Ucas attributed the delay in the publication of its entry guide in part to the time institutions take to respond to inquiries about their entry requirements. However, Ucas said that this was a result of the weight of extra information that has to be compiled to incorporate the Curriculum 2000 changes and not of foot-dragging by universities.
A spokesman said: "There is a lot of pressure on universities to explain how they are going to form offers. Some universities will have a large number of coursesI and have got an enormous amount of work to do.
"I do not think the delay in publication of the guide will affect the applications process. It leaves less time, but if it is available in mid-June pupils will still be in time to use it before the end of term."
Ucas continues to face problems in convincing every university to adopt its tariff systems allowing numerical comparison of all qualifications - including AS levels and AEAs. The tariff is due to come into effect next year.
Maggie Scott, quality adviser for the Association of Colleges, said the new curriculum was proving popular with college students. But she believes this may change because of the attitude of some universities.
She said: "There is a need for clear guidance from universities, and it does not look like students will get it. ThatI is making it difficult for them to make informed choices. That in itself is a disincentive to higher education."