The chairman of a university think-tank has warned that applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds will suffer most as a surge in applications push up entrance requirements across the board.
Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and head of Million+, which represents most modern universities, said the failure to match the increase in applications with new places would have a negative effect on non-traditional students.
“The most worrying consequence of this shortage, is that many ‘widening participation’ students will miss out as universities juggle the applications of candidates with very high grades against those with lower pre-entry or vocational qualifications," said Professor Ebdon.
Scottish institutions have been part of a UK-wide trend among the older universities to raise entry standards for 2010-11.
The required grades to study physics at Glasgow have leapt from two Bs and a C at Higher lever to an A and two Bs.
UCAS recently reported Scottish university applications up by 31.2 percent compared to last year. Over the same period, Edinburgh Napier University reported a 78.5 percent rise in undergraduate applications.
Two weeks ago, The Journal reported Edinburgh University's plans to cut undergraduate admissions by a third suggests despite the Scottish Government holding off on cutting higher education funding in its 2010-11 budget.
The comments from Million+ follow similar warnings from NUS Scotland, whose president, Liam Burns called the rise in applications "a crisis situation that demands immediate action from everyone in the sector".
"Getting to university, especially when demand is as high as this, must be based on your ability not on your background."
Speaking to The Journal, Mr Burns said admissions at universities need to be sophisticated enough not to focus solely on grades and qualifications.
“You can treat this as a crisis or as a new opportunity considering we have many non-traditional students coming into higher education. This is a wholly positive thing if you believe in lifelong learning.”
NUS Scotland are joined by Clare Baker MSP, Labour Scottish shadow minister for education, in calling for a wide-ranging review of current funding practices.