Numbers of university applicants for the next academic year are falling, according to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Preliminary totals released to admissions officers show that on November 20 2000, the number of application forms received by Ucas was down about 6,000 on the previous year.
The fall comes despite the introduction of electronic applications, which Ucas said in early November were being used by a third of applicants.
One student recruitment officer said: "The electronic application system will mean that forms will be received earlier, which would suggest that the situation could be much worse than the recorded drop of 6,000 suggests."
"The figures will be changing all the time," said a Ucas spokeswoman.
She said electronic applications would not necessarily arrive earlier, adding: "Just because people can apply electronically, doesn't mean they are going to be any more organised."
The next set of statistics due to be made public are the figures for applications submitted by December 15, the closing date for most courses, which should be available in late January.
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