London: Recent changes to the student visa regime and the forthcoming closure of the post-study work visa from April 2012 has reportedly led to drop in number of Indians applying to study at British universities in the next academic year.

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The post-study work visa, which enables non-EU students to work for two years in the UK after completing their courses, has been popular among self-financing Indian students, who try to recover the cost of their study by working after their course is over.

The Home Office has announced that the post-study work visa will be closed from April 2012 as part of the David Cameron government's efforts to reduce immigration.

Recent changes to the student visa regime are also driven by efforts to prevent its abuse.

According to Times Higher Education (THE), an authoritative publication focused on the higher education sector, British universities have been "hit by a downturn in demand from Indian students".

Noting that changes to the student visa regime had adversely affected international students, THE reported that "a number of institutions are seeing declines of between 20 and 30 percent in applicant numbers from the Indian subcontinent".

THE reported in its latest issue said this is in addition to Middlesex University and the University of Greenwich, two institutions that have recruited heavily from the region and
are already known to have experienced a dip in demand from India.

"The fall is thought partly to be due to negative media coverage of UK visa policies, but is also being influenced by the closure of the existing post-study work route in April 2012," it added.

Under new UK rules, after the post-study work visa is closed, non-EU students could take up employment if they secure a job with an annual salary of more than 20,000 pounds.

Most such students are unlikely to get jobs at this level after completing their courses.

Due to the prospect of Indian and other non-EU students choosing not to come to the UK in significant numbers, universities could see their financial surpluses "wiped out", Ed Smith, pro-chancellor and chair of council at the University of Birmingham, said at a meeting last week, THE reported.

According to Smith, the student-visa changes brought in by the Home Office had created a "crazy" system that risked "tarnishing" the reputation of UK higher education abroad.

The problem, he said, was becoming "serious" and called for a concerted effort on the part of the sector to bring it to the attention of the Cameron government.

There is much anxiety in the higher education sector over the next academic year starting from September-October 2012, when UK and EU students will have to pay annual fees up to 9,000 pounds for their courses, which has already led to student protests and major restructuring in faculties and departments.

Industry figures published today reveal that across the higher education sector, 5,000 courses have been cut due to the higher fees and government cuts.

Courses that are too expensive to run or are in low demand have been scrapped.