The number of students enrolled on full-time legal practice courses (LPCs) has shrunk by 8.4% this year, reflecting awareness of the dearth of training contracts on offer, the Gazette can reveal.

In all, 5,198 students enrolled with the 27 LPC providers for 2013/2014, according to data from the Central Applications Board, the admissions service for full-time LPC and graduate diploma in law (GDL) applicants. This was 475 fewer than last year, and means that more than 6,500 course places theoretically approved by regulators are unfilled.

On average, courses are only 44% full, the figures show. Since 2008/09 the total number of students applying for LPCs has plummeted by 37.5%, from 10,933.

In 2012/13 enrolments fell 4% to 5,673.

Peter Crisp, chief executive of BPP Law School, said: ‘The figures reflect a market correction, with the number of students enrolling on courses beginning to match more closely the number of training contracts available.’

But Fiona Fargher, LPC programme manager at Liverpool John Moores University, said there has been an increase in students enrolling part-time to spread the cost of fees.

The biggest drop in full-time enrolments was at the University of the West of England, Bristol, which recorded a 41% fall to 55. Enrolments at the University of Law, the largest provider of LPCs, dropped by 6% to 2,587 – a fall of 168 places.

Oxford Brookes University and the National College of Legal Training (NCLT) both cancelled their 2013/14 LPCs. The NCLT said: ‘Market conditions, in particular a decrease in applications for professional legal studies’ meant the course was ‘not viable to run’.

The City Law School at City University had the biggest rise in intake for 2013/14. Enrolments rose 20% to 79, a total of 13 more students.