All Pakistanis wanting to study in Britain will be interviewed face-to-face as part of measures being trialled to crack down on bogus applications, it was disclosed on Thursday night.
A new "credibility test" is expected to boost the rate of refusals from 20% to more than 40%, according to a government source.
The move follows a UK Border Agency pilot scheme conducted in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Egypt, Pakistan and the United States.
The findings apparently suggested that a large proportion of candidates could not speak English well enough to qualify.
The source said using face-to-face interviews had been particularly effective in Pakistan, uncovering reasons for rejection in 43% of applications. The rate under the existing, largely paper-based, system is said to be 20%.
The new checks will be piloted initially to gain further evidence about their effectiveness.
In March, the National Union for Students launched a campaign on behalf of international students in protest against the government's immigration policies. Their efforts are documented in the gallery below.
Daniel Stevens, national executive council member for the NUS, was a key member in setting up the union's international students campaign.
He told the Huffington Post UK the idea was "absolutely absurd and discriminatory":
International students must already adhere to strict list of requirements and draconian regulations if they wish to obtain a visa anyway- it's baffling to imagine the prospect of further requirements and bureaucracy on top of the the amount that already exists.
Moreover, it's counter intuitive since being able to improve spoken English is one of the reasons applicants choose to study in the UK anyway. It's also a completely intimidating process for prospective international students to go through.
This is yet another attack on international student numbers from the Government that's being pushed on hundreds of thousands of legitimate international students under the guise of 'bogus students.'
Applicants are already required to prove they have a sufficient level of English through accredited exams but the new plans mean more hurdles for the international students.
Other high-profile organisations, such as the Russell Group, have also spoken out against the coalition's stance - as has the British Council, who was accused of undermining the immigration policy.
A report released in February, titled 'Education: A Great British Export?' warned the coalition its policies were deterring foreign students from studying in the UK and described the issue as an "emerging problem".
Andy Burrows, editor of ForeignStudents.com, said although he welcomed the scheme in general, he had a "number of concerns".
Burrows warned the success of the plans would rest on the way they are communicated to international applicants.
"There is the perception that Britain is closing its doors to international students with the recent visa changes, mainly due to poor communication. These new measures cannot be perceived as a way to make it harder for genuine students to come to the UK.
"It’s also vital that this scheme is done for the right reasons," he added. "The tests should only be a tool to separate the genuine students from the bogus one, and should not simply be used as an excuse to reduce the number of Pakistani students coming to study in the UK."
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