In his first major speech on immigration since the coalition government was formed, Damian Green sets out the policy aim of 'continuing to attract at least our fair share of the brightest and the best to study and work here, without putting unacceptable levels of pressure on our public services and the ability of our society to absorb change'.

He refers to research that indicates that one in five foreign students given entry visas to study were still in the country five years after completing their courses.

He implies that students coming for degree level courses (which account for only about half of the annual student 'cohort') will not be affected but appears to signal a tightening of the rules for students coming for courses which are below degree level.

The following extracts make this distinction clear:

'I want a student visa system which encourages the entry of legitimate students coming to study legitimate courses. For me that certainly means students coming to study in universities, students who are equipped to study the courses to which they have subscribed and who fulfil their academic obligations and students who at the end of their period of leave, return to their country of origin.'

'We estimate we are bringing more than ninety thousand people into Britain every year to do courses below degree level at private institutions. We need to decide whether this is right and also whether it is the best thing in each case for the students themselves, given the high financial commitments required of them.

It is vital that institutions which rely on below degree level courses urgently consider their business models and also take active steps to lobby the government to ensure that their views are heard before any decisions are made.