Some civic universities are reviewing their course provision as they unexpectedly struggle to meet recruitment targets, despite the buoyant outlook across the sector.
Leeds University said it was provisionally down 5 per cent on its target this year, although international and postgraduate numbers have exceeded expectations. A spokesperson said: "We are looking closely at our portfolio of programmes and making adjustments where they are clearly warranted, such as increases in courses that are heavily over-subscribed and decreases in areas such as engineering where recruitment is a national problem."
Hull University is facing a 3 per cent drop in admissions. Academic registrar David Law said he believed the shortfall was a temporary blip caused mainly by confusion over the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, which is moving to Lincoln. He stressed that this year was Hull's second biggest intake. "We put up our targets because we believed the impact of changes at ULH would be more rapid than it has turned out to be."
Hull had planned to drive up recruitment by 20 per cent in three years. Mr Law said he was confident that next year's intake would compensate for the shortfall.
A spokesperson for Royal Holloway, part of London University, said a decline in applications had resulted in a 7 per cent shortfall, although the college stressed that the quality of its intake was up and overseas applications had performed well.
Bradford University has recruited fewer home undergraduates than last year, although figures are still being finalised. Registrar and secretary Nick Andrew said: "We continue to look for ways of increasing the buoyancy of undergraduate demand. We are encouraged that our efforts to recruit additional postgraduates and international students have borne fruit."
Universities that seriously under-recruit face a clawback from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But Christopher Edwards, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, warned against kneejerk reactions. "There is an increasing tendency to view universities as playthings of the market, but we must think very seriously about the success of UK plc if there are no engineers left in a few years."
A number of new universities that have seen serious falls in student numbers in recent years seem to be on target this year. Lincoln and Humberside has met target numbers for the first time in five years, Luton said it expects a slight increase on last year and Anglia Polytechnic University is expecting a 10 per cent increase.
The University of East London is confident that it is on course to meet its target of about 3,000 students. A spokeswoman put the success of the institution - which was under emergency funding council supervision last year - down to new courses such as cinematics.
Sunderland said that its performance compared very positively with last year, but could not give final figures.
A number of old universities have also seen increases in students numbers, although none reported exceeding the 4 per cent leeway allowed on their target, or maximum aggregate student number. Birmingham University has recruited 600 more home students than last year and Leicester has seen record recruitment with a 23 per cent increase on last year.