The decision to cut the numbers of students eligible to receive a maintenance grant has been condemned by Bradford Council’s leader.

The family income upper limit will be reduced from £60,000 to £50,020 in September, 2009.

Coun Hopkins said: “As a result of this decision, large numbers of students from middle-income families who wanted to enter higher education may not now get that chance.

“Attending university is a goal everyone has the right to aspire to. Indeed, it is a goal they should be encouraged to achieve.

“It is estimated this change of Government policy will mean 40,000 prospective students might not be able to attend university because they and their families are unable to afford the costs.

“Rather than protecting the interests of ‘the many not the few’, as they promised to do when taking office, Labour ministers have failed to protect the interests of the less well-off members of our community.”

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has admitted it has a funding shortfall of £200m. Up to 40,000 prospective students will lose grants of up to £524 a year.

Universities Secretary John Denham said the department had expected only a third of students to qualify for the full grant.

Mr Denham said it had been difficult for his department to predict the number of people within the system, as it had to use data from last year.