Bursaries for trainee teachers will be cut by a third from next September, The TES has learnt.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) said it could afford to make the cuts because the recession has changed attitudes to the profession and resulted in a surge in applications.
This week, the quango announced that all major targets for trainee recruits have been hit this year - the first time in 14 years.
However, the bursaries cut was condemned as shortsighted and critics predicted a return to the teacher shortages of recent years.
From 2010, those specialising in modern languages, music and RE will see their pay-out slashed from pound;9,000 to pound;6,000. Those doing courses in PE, art, business studies, citizenship, dance and drama and history will receive just pound;4,000, down from pound;6,000. Critics say the revised figures will not provide enough to live on.
Those planning to teach chemistry, physics, maths and IT - still priority subjects - will continue to be awarded pound;9,000. However, the changes also penalise those taking biology and combined or general science, who will see their bursaries cut from pound;9,000 to pound;6,000.
A TDA spokesman said the decision was not a cost-saving measure. He said bursaries were introduced as a form of "market intervention" designed to increase the number of graduates applying to teacher training and this was no longer required.
The National Union of Students called on the TDA to retain bursaries at their current level.
Deputy president Aaron Porter said: "Teachers are among the most valuable people in public service and we think these changes should have been more thought through.
"Coming at a time when places on courses are cut, this is a double whammy. These cuts might be the final deterrent."
John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said the reduction was equivalent of "kicking out one of the planks" just when retention had stabilised.
"It is erroneous to think all that needs to be done is rely on factors in the market," he said. "It will jettison the structured approach which has worked well in attracting the best students rather than a short sighted and opportunist policy like this."