The number of university courses has fallen by more than a quarter since 2006, prompting warnings that students will be put off by a lack of choice.

The University and College Union (UCU) revealed that 27 percent of full-time undergraduate courses on offer had been shut down, despite an increase in student numbers.

Its report, Course Cuts: How Choice has Declined in Higher Education, found that England recorded the biggest course number reduction of 31 percent. Scotland fared best, with just 3 percent of courses being scrapped.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt warned that students could miss out on their true potential because of the decline in course options.

"While successive governments have been dreaming up new ways to increase the cost of going to university, the range of subjects has fallen massively," she said.

"The UK's global academic reputation is built on the broad range of subjects and on the freedom of academics to push at the boundaries and create new areas of study. This report shows that, while government rhetoric is all about students as consumers, the curriculum has actually narrowed significantly.

"If we want to compete globally, we simply cannot have areas of the country where students do not have access to a broad range of courses. The increasing cost of university means some students are choosing to study closer to home.

"How many potential Nobel prize-winners will not see the light of day because the choices that were available to previous generations are simply not there now?"

Nobel scientist Sir Richard Roberts said universities were increasingly seen as technical colleges that offer specialised training instead of providing a "broad and balanced education", which encourages innovation.

In the report he said: "One of the hallmarks of a British education in my earlier years was the very breadth of subject matter that could be studied and that our policies are now seeking to restrict.

"While this may make economic sense, it is almost guaranteed to lead to the deterioration of the human mind and its opportunities for innovation."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said there were more UK students than ever before.

"Our reforms are freeing up places at the institutions where students wish to study and bringing higher education into more local communities.

"Student choice is becoming more meaningful and no one should be put off as a result of financial concerns."