The National Youth Agency's (NYA) monitoring of professionally validated youth and community work courses found that 673 students were recruited in 2015/16, compared with 793 the previous year.
This is just under half of 2009's figure of 1,277 and down 278 on 2011's tally of 951.
On average, higher education institutions managed to recruit 97 per cent of their expected target, however, of 51 programmes monitored just 14 met or exceeded this target and nine failed to recruit any students.
But while the figures are the lowest on record, the drop of 15 per cent is not as bad as had been previously feared. In May this year, incomplete data for 2015/16 suggested that the number of students undertaking courses had dropped 28 per cent to 572.
"While the numbers of students recruited continues to reduce, the figure also indicates that higher education institutions are filling almost all of their places, which is a significant achievement," said Leigh Middleton, NYA managing director.
"These reductions reflect the changing face of youth work nationally; many jobs require the positive benefits of youth work skills that can be applied to a range of roles as well as a professional youth worker."
Among key concerns raised in NYA's latest monitoring report is courses' continuing problems in recruiting men, with 26 per cent of new students being male, one per cent up on the previous year but still markedly down on 2013/14's proportion of 35 per cent.
Middleton added: "The gender balance is a recognised concern and further research is needed to understand more fully its implications. We will be working with our education and training standards committee and higher education institutions to look at how it can be addressed for the future."
Other latest findings are that the average number of placements per course has dropped from 36 in 2014/15 to 25 in 2015/16. The average number of fieldwork supervisors has also fallen, from 31 last year to 26 in 2015/16.
The NYA report cites cuts among council youth services and the voluntary sector as key reasons for this slump.
In addition, just three per cent of graduates took up a council youth services role, compared with 8.8 per cent last year.