More than 140,000 applicants missed out on university places this year, the Tories today claimed.
The party's universities spokesman David Willetts said 141,000 applicants missed out - an increase of nearly 30 per cent on the year before.
He accused the Government of "blocking people's aspirations and betraying a generation" because of the shortfall.
He said: "If more people are achieving the required standard then it is a good thing if more of them go to university.
"Our economy is different from the one of 50 or 60 years ago and our youngsters will not be able to compete unless we ensure they are as highly qualified as those from the countries that are our global competitors.
"The Government says it is expanding access to university, but they are actually blocking people's aspirations and betraying a generation."
Mr Willetts has raised the question of delays to student loans - demanding the government give a date for when the problem will be resolved.
As of last week more than 175,000 students were still waiting to receive loans and grants a week after most courses started.
Of the record 1,091,653 applications for student finance made by October 4, 916,295 (84 per cent) have been processed, the Student Loans Company (SLC) said, leaving 175,358 applications outstanding a week after most courses started.
This summer saw students struggling to find a degree course through clearing - with a record number of people, more than 627,000, applying.
A lack of jobs due to the economic downturn has been credited as one of the reasons for the ballooning figures, while ministers have insisted that record numbers of students are at university.Reuse content