EXPERTS have warned that Government plans to reduce foreign Students will destroy an industry worth £74m to Oxford’s economy.

Two think tanks have attacked Government proposals to slash the number of student visas given to foreigners wanting to study here, as part of plans to reduce immigration.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has said the proposals will cost Britain billions of pounds by driving away thousands of genuine students.

In a separate report, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) said the Government’s plans were “a hostile act against universities” who relied on international colleges, like Bellerby’s, Eckersley Oxford and the Oxford English Centre, to feed through students.

The Government’s plan would mean all foreign students must be able to speak passable English and would be banned from bringing family members into the country.

Visas would also only be granted to students at accredited colleges on the Government’s Highly Trusted Sponsors shortlist.

The changes are intended to stop terrorists using student visas to enter the country or foreigners entering the UK to gain employment rather than study.

Eckersley Oxford principal Steve Hirschhorn said the Government’s proposals were “disastrous”.

He said: “The damage has already been done, to a large extent.

“Students are going elsewhere. Why would you come here if you are going to be treated like a criminal rather than Malta, where the sun shines and there are high-quality language schools?”

He described how one Thai student had told him he would not return to study in English this year and enrol on an MA because of endless hassle over his visa.

Mr Hirschhorn said: “The country has lost thousands of pounds just from him in terms of his MA fees, accommodation, and the money his wealthy parents provide him to study here.

“A lot of people in Oxford rely on host family income to pay off their mortgages.

“There is both an economic hit and a cultural hit.”

According to trade group English UK, Oxford’s language and international colleges brought £74m into the city’s economy in 2009 and generated £1.5bn across the country.

IPPR report authors Sarah Mulley and Alice Sachrajda said: “The ability of international students to come to the UK sells Britain and British business to the rest of the world.

“The Government cannot have its cake and eat it. It will simply not be possible to reach the reduced net migration target and retain the benefits that students bring to the institutions they attend and the wider economy.”

English UK chief executive Tony Millns added: “The worst aspect is that both reports show that cutting students won’t necessarily achieve the Government’s objective on net migration anyway, so the policy could fail and yet do significant damage to a vital sector.”

The Home Office is currently consulting on its proposals.