London: The UK government has indicated new plans to send back foreign graduates, who come here on student visas, to their home countries at the end of their courses, a move that could affect the enrollment from India in British universities, media reports said on Wednesday.
UK home secretary Theresa May is demanding that the Conservative party's next manifesto in Britain to include a pledge forcing students from outside the European Union to leave the UK and apply for a fresh visa from abroad.
The new move could lead to the sharp dip in the number of Indian students coming to UK for higher studies, and they are set to be displaced as the Britain's second-largest group of foreign students.
Presently, students largely from China and India can switch easily to a work visa and are able to work after their course ends.
A recent British Council study found that Indians are choosing US universities over the UK colleges due to strict visa norms on post-study work.
Around 30,000 students from India were studying at UK higher education institutions in 2011-12, compared to 40,000 in 2012-13. The figure is set to register a further drop in 2013-14.
The home secretary wants a future Conservative government to "move towards zero net student migration" by sending home those who come to Britain on student visas, The Sunday Times reported.
Under the home secretary's proposals, colleges and universities would be fined and stripped of the right to sponsor foreign students if they failed to ensure that students left the country.
May's decision came after official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 121,000 non-EU students entered the UK in the year to June, out of which only 51,000 left and 70,000 stayed behind in just one year.
The business department has calculated that the number of foreign students coming to the UK will rise by more than six per cent a year up to 2020.
The home secretary has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that failure to act on foreign students will make it impossible for him to hit his target of annual net migration in the tens of thousands.