The vice-chancellor's body, Universities UK, has hit out at the Government's proposals to limit the number of UK visas for international students, calling the plans, 'damaging and dangerous'.

The Government is currently carrying out a consultation on plans to limit the number of non-EU students coming to the UK to study below degree level courses. It is also planning to raise the English language requirements students need to have in order to study here. As nearly two thirds of the 273,000 visas granted to students in 2009 under tier 4 of the points based system were given to individuals from outside the EU, these students are now bearing the brunt of the Government's immigration cuts. This follows on from the pledge by ministers to slash net migration from its current 215,000 to below 100,000 by 2015.

Universities are concerned, however, that by cutting the number of non-EU students coming to the UK to study below degree level courses, institutions are missing out on excellent international students. Currently many international degree students are recruited from non-degree level courses which equip them with a strong command of English and thorough subject knowledge. Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, believes raising the English language level could potentially rule out 70-80% of students currently studying foundation courses. He also points out that universities recruit almost half of their foreign students from such courses.

Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, has stated that although he understands the importance of attracting international students, it is necessary to be selective about those individuals who come into the country and how long they are able to stay. The Government believes the current tier 4 system is being abused and too many students applying for below degree level courses are coming to the UK to live and work instead.