Sixteen UK universities have written a joint letter to The Observer, warning that the Government's proposed restrictions on foreign students entering the UK would have a detrimental effect on university income. Students from outside the EU pay an average of £10,463 in tuition fees; up to eight times more than British undergraduates.

Urging the Home Secretary to abandon the plans, the alliance of universities stated: "Reductions in student numbers will lead to reductions in income and jobs. Without international students, many university courses, particularly science and engineering courses, may no longer be viable. This will in turn reduce the courses available to UK students."

The Coalition Government aims to reduce net migration from the current level of 196,000 to 'tens of thousands' by 2015. Students from outside the EU have bore the brunt of the proposed changes, mainly due to the rapid increase in the number of foreign students coming to the UK to study. A 2009 report from Universities UK shows that in 1998/9 there were 117,290 international students at UK universities and by 2007/8 this number had increased to 229,640. Universities argue, however, that foreign students bring both political and cultural benefits to the UK, while also providing universities with a crucial source of income.