Student leaders were angered this week after a government minister used small rises in student numbers as proof that its policy on tuition fees policy and scrapping grants is working, writes Alan Thomson.
The National Union of Students said it was scandalous that higher education minister Baroness Blackstone spoke positively of poor growth figures to rebut opposition MPs' claims that applications had fallen because of government policy.
Baroness Blackstone gave evidence to the education select committee on Monday.
An NUS spokesman said: "For a government which promised that things can only get better to go before the select committee and claim success for things getting no worse is an insult to the sector."
Figures from the University and Colleges Admissions Service show that the number of students starting university last autumn was up by just 1.5 per cent on the year before. So far applications for this year are down 1 per cent on the same time last year.