Students who failed to reach minimum numeracy and literacy standards at high school are unlikely to be allowed into university this year.

This year is the first that university entrants have needed to hold NCEA level 1 numeracy and NCEA level 2 literacy qualifications if they wished to study at university. Until now, students needed only to have credits in any three level 3 subjects.

NZQA secondary education group manager Kate Colbert said schools had been provided with information about the minimum standards since 2002.

Early figures show about 600 fewer students had gained university entrance following last year's exams.

Ms Colbert did not know how many of those students failed to gain university entrance because of the numeracy and literacy standards but she estimated it to be a minority.

She said the number of calls to NZQA about university entrance was much the same as in previous years and many students reported failing to get in because they did not have the three level 3 standards.

The minimum standards have been introduced following concerns that too many students were entering university with unrealistic goals of passing. "The big point of it is really that we don't want kids going to university if they are not going to success, that's not fair on them," said Ms Colbert.

"They get big student loans, they don't pass, they have a huge sense of failure."

Lincoln University vice-chancellor Roger Field said some students may have been caught out by the new criteria but it had been "well flagged in schools" for the past few years.

Professor Field said there would be a certain amount of flexibility this year if students were on the borderline of passing and capable of university study.

"We are prepared to look at students on a case-by-case basis."

Other universities have also indicated special admissions would be made.

Gaining entrance

* The old requirements under Bursary: Cs in three bursary subjects.

* The old requirements under NCEA: credits in three level 3 subjects.

* The new requirements: level 1 numeracy, level 2 literacy and 42 credits in three level 3 subjects.