The number of students applying to teach shortage subjects such as maths and languages has dropped by 15 per cent.
Figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) show the number of students applying to universities for maths courses this month has dropped by 14 per cent compared with last September.
Numbers applying for French and German have fallen by 14 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. However, numbers applying for religious education and social studies have increased by 20 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.
Overall, 56,013 students have applied for postgraduate courses compared with 57,046 last year, marking a decline of 1.8 per cent. Applications for secondary courses in England, Scotland and Wales are down 3.6 per cent, while applications for primary courses are up by 0.9 per cent.
Doug French, president of the Mathematical Association, said: "This is very worrying considering a lot of energy has been put into trying to boost recruitment. What is most worrying is that students can drop out at any stage."
He said the fact maths was a priority subject meant there was too much government interference in teaching and the curriculum, which deterred people.
A spokeswoman for CILT, the National Centre for Languages, described the fall in would-be language teachers as disappointing.
A spokesman from the Department for Education and Skills denied there was a problem with recruitment. He said: "We have record numbers of teachers in our schools, 435,400 - more than at any point since 1980. Maths and science recruitment remains a priority, with more than 21,000 maths teachers already in post and plans to recruit a further 3,000 science teachers over the next three years."
Professor John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, said 18 subjects out of 27 were in decline compared with last year and suggested recruitment drives were "akin to trying to run up a down escalator and failing".
He said the drop in numbers for maths was a "serious concern" and estimated the fall in applications for languages meant only three-quarters of places would be filled this September.
For those starting work for the first time this term, he said: "Workload and discipline are things new teachers should be concerned but not worried about.
"So long as they get their 10 per cent non-contact time and extra 10 per cent for their induction year, workload should not be a problem," he said.