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Indians wishing to study in Britain will be singled out for extra scrutiny by border officials if the Conservative Party forms the next government, a report said Saturday.

These additional controls will also be placed on prospective students from China, Nigeria and Pakistan, The Financial Times said in its report on plans published by the opposition Conservative Party Friday to deal with alleged “widespread abuse” of the student visa system.

The plans include forcing foreign students to furnish cash deposits of up to 2,000 pounds a year, a ban on switching to other courses or to work permits once they have arrived and a new category system for universities and colleges that want to attract overseas students.

However, some observers see the Tory plans as part of a deliberate ratcheting up of immigration issues in the run up to British general elections, due by early June.

Ironically, the Tory plans come bang in the middle of a visit to India by Cambridge University Vice Chancellor Alison Richards, who is trying to woo more Indian students to Cambridge.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is due to start talks in London Jan 13 amid a massive upturn in educational ties between India and Britain – a sector that has the potential to earn struggling British institutions billions of pounds in revenues from Indians.

British universities, which face deep budget cuts, have been increasingly turning to foreign students from India and China for revenues. Some estimates suggest foreign students bring in 8.5 billion pounds to the British economy each year.

“International students do not come automatically to the UK,” said Catherine Marston of Universities UK, a representative body. “Our universities work hard to attract them so it’s vital we send out the message that we welcome them.”

More than 30,000 Indians are studying in Britain, according to British government figures – the fastest growing segment of foreign students.

Indian students in Britain shot up a record 24 percent between 2005-06 and 2006-07 – from 19,205 to 23,835, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

India is second among nations with the most students in British institutions. China tops the list, although the number of Chinese students fell from 50,755 to 49,595 over the same period.

Americans students rose eight percent to 15,955, putting the country third in the table.

The Conservative Party’s shadow Home Minister Chris Grayling said Friday: “The student visa system is a huge loophole in our border controls, and despite years of promises the government has completely failed to deal with the problem.

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