Students from India and other non-European Union countries, wishing to study in Britain, will face more restrictions from next month under plans to cut student visas by over 25 per cent a year — a reduction of close to 80,000 visas.

New rules, set to come into force from April, will require applicants to demonstrate a higher knowledge of English than is required currently and only those sponsored by an accredited institution will be allowed to come in.

Students at private colleges will be barred from taking up work during study and there will be restrictions on work placements in courses outside universities. However, those at public-funded universities and colleges will retain their current work rights,

The overall time that can be spent on a student visa at degree or higher levels will be limited to five years. At present, there is no time limit for study at this level.

The current system, which allows students two years to seek employment after their course ends, will be abolished and only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 of the points-based system will be allowed to stay on.

There will also be restrictions on bringing in dependants. Only postgraduate students at universities and government-sponsored students will be able to bring their dependants. At present, all students on longer courses can bring their dependants.

A controversial move to impose an arbitrary annual cap on student visas was dropped after protests from universities who depend heavily for their incomes on fee-paying overseas students. These students contribute more than £5 billion to the British economy.

Announcing the new rules, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “This package will stop bogus students studying meaningless courses at fake colleges. It will protect our world-class institutions. It will stop the abuse that became all too common under Labour and it will restore some sanity to our student visa system.”

The crackdown is part of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron's election promise to party's grassroots to reduce immigration levels. But the move is proving controversial, with businesses, universities and Mr. Cameron's coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, arguing that a rigid immigration policy would hurt Britain's economic interests.