The number of pupillage applications made through the Bar Council’s online “Gateway” has fallen by 9%.

The Pupillage Gateway system, which launched in 2013, received 17,527 applications this April, compared with 19,239 last spring. The number of applicants also fell, down from 2,319 last year to 2,114.

The figures do not represent the total number of annual pupillage applications, as many sets recruit outside of the Gateway system, using their own bespoke forms.

The figures reflect the growing competition at a shrinking Bar, which is perhaps discouraging debt-laden students from taking the risk of applying.

A Bar Council spokesman said: “It is no surprise that there has been a slight decline in pupillage applications. Where there are fewer pupillages available this may act as a deterrent for some who realise that competition is greater than ever.”

The Gateway, which replaced the Pupillage Portal, has in the past had technical issues, but they were absent this year. The number of chambers that chose to use it rose to 95, up from 86 last year.