The University Central Admissions Services website reported that all 345 construction-related courses in the UK have vacancies, just weeks before the start of the academic year. Last year, nearly half of the courses had been filled at this stage.
Universities and colleges contacted by Building this week confirmed that there had been a gradual decline in the number of those applying for courses, coupled with sky-high demand from employers for graduates.
Alan Cornthwaite, head of the department of the built environment at the Bolton Institute, said: "It's a sad state of affairs right now. Employers are ringing us every day asking us if we have any students."
Ray Hulse, associate dean at Coventry University's built environment department, said: "We seem to have held our own this year but everyone is struggling to get students in."
Hulse said the problem centred on the industry's image. He said: "There are lots of jobs out there but the message doesn't seem to have got through to the students."
Cornthwaite said the lack of school leavers joining courses had been offset by a growth in part-time students, who are largely sponsored by firms. He said: "We had 150 full-time students to 450 part-time ones last year. About five years ago the ratio was half and half."
Stephen Pretlove, senior lecturer at South Bank University, confirmed this trend. He said: "We are not getting as many from the traditional A level route. Employers are coming to us with workers who want to study for one to two hours a week." Pretlove said the university expected to achieve its target for student numbers this year.
Last year the drop in student interest in construction courses led to Luton University disbanding its construction department.