London: British immigration authorities have closed down an estimated 500 bogus colleges operating in the country over the last 18 months, affecting a number of students from abroad, including from India.
However, top officials in the education sector insist that for genuine and legitimate students, Britain is still a viable option and Indians still account for the second highest number of non-EU students in the country.
Professor Eric Thomas, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol said acknowledged today that a large number of colleges had been closed down over the last year and a half but asserted that there is no cap on the numbers of international students coming to the country.
"The UK Border agencies have closed 500 colleges in the UK within the last 18 months. They have ceased to trade," Thomas told newsmen.
However, he said that "despite some recent high-profile negative coverage of the UK`s student visa system, the reality is that the UK welcomes genuine international students".
He said international students make a fundamental contribution to university life and international demand for places remains strong. Besides, plenty of post-study work opportunities also continue to exist, he said.
Only last month, the UK Border Agency had revoked the London Metropolitan University`s (LMU) licence to sponsor non-EU students, a decision that affected a number of Indians.
Meanwhile, Joanna Newman, Director of the UK Higher Education International Unit (IU) told PTI that there has been a slight decrease in the number of students registered here following a number of damaging newspaper reports but India still ranked No 2 as for as non-EU students in the UK in 2010/11.
"There were as many as 39,090 Indian students in 2010/11 as against 67,325 Chinese students. We have close relations with the Indian Government. We are not only working with the Indian Government but collaborating with various Universities," she said.
She said there has been a number of changes to the system but legitimate students can still get a student visa if they meet the UK Border Agency`s requirements.
"Post-study work is still an option for international students once they graduate, through a new category. No further changes to the UK immigration system are planned," she said.
She said the UK remained one of the most attractive study destinations in the world - second only to the USA and one of the world`s leading research powers measured by total publications and citations.
Answering a question on abuse of the Student Visa system, she said, "the abuse is less than 2 per cent and it is incumbent on the Universities to verify the genuineness of students".