London: British universities stand to lose between 5-8 billion pounds every year due to the new student visa restrictions applicable to students from India and other non-EU countries, according to top university officials.
In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Universities UK, which represents 134 higher education institutions, warns that unless the coalition government urgently reviews and scraps the recent changes, the sector already affected by deep funding cuts will lose further.
A spokesperson of Universities UK said that a letter by chairman Professor Eric Thomas is being sent to Cameron highlighting the debilitating effect the new restrictions are likely to have on the economic situation of universities.
There are already reports of falling numbers of student-applications from India and other countries, with one unnamed university reporting a drop of 40 per cent in applications from international students.
The new restrictions include closure of the post-study work visa, which was popular among self-financing students from India, since it allowed them to recover (after completing their courses) some of the costs of studying in the UK.
Prof Thomas says in the letter that in China and India - the largest markets for overseas students - Britain is seen as "putting up barriers to entry", and added: "The UK seems to be telling the world that it doesn't welcome international students".
Attracting overseas students, he says, is "exactly the type of activity the Government should be supporting in these difficult economic times", adding, "There are significant economic benefits and growth in this area, and we believe removing international students from net migration figures, which is what other countries are doing, will send very positive signals around the globe".
Several institutions such as the British Council and the Institute for Public policy research have urged the government to review the restrictions that have been placed as part of the coalition government's promise to cut immigration.