The Government removed 750 teacher-training places from courses starting in September following fears of an oversupply in certain parts of England.
Primary teacher training was hardest hit, with 500 places being axed nationwide. The move represents cuts of up to a quarter at the worst-affected training colleges.
Delays in announcing the cuts have left hundreds of people without a course for September, despite earlier assurances that places were secure. The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) says many training providers were interviewing candidates in the autumn term, weeks before allocations are finalised by the Teacher Training Agency in late December. This meant many graduates were accepted, only to be later told that places were no longer available.
James Rogers, UCET's executive director, said: "There was a feeling that there would be some growth this year and providers were encouraged to interview on that basis. When numbers were cut, it placed many institutions in a very difficult situation. Some universities and colleges have to start interviewing in the autumn, almost a year before courses start, and had no option but to turn people away after finding out their numbers were being cut."
Mr Rogers said some courses had been reduced so dramatically that any further cuts would render them financially unviable.
At Bradford college, primary training places were cut from 205 to 156.
Barry Miller, the college's head of teacher education, said:
"Unfortunately, we were only told this while we were interviewing and as a result we were not able to offer as many places as we expected. We know that this has been a disappointment to students."
The University of the West of England, Bristol, has to cut 64 of its 270 primary training places starting in September. The College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, had numbers reduced from 222 to 169.
The TTA says allocations are made to training colleges as soon as it receives overall targets for the coming year from the Department for Education and Skills.
The DfES said the allocations process had been speeded up in recent years and previous announcements were made as late as February.
A spokeswoman denied there were any hints that student numbers would increase this year.