TONY Blair's dream of an extra 25,000 international students in Britain's colleges is being scuppered because of difficulties in getting visas abroad.
Last June the Prime Minister launched a bid to double the number of non-European students by 2005. But this week the Association of Colleges warned that thousands of students were being barred from entry to the UK.
According to a survey they conducted, international students at six in ten colleges have faced visa problems in their home country. Students at one in three colleges doing international work have faced problems with immigration authorities on their arrival.
Jo Clough, the AOC's international director, said: "UK visa officials seem to be making judgments about the suitability of students for courses on which colleges have already accepted them. The worst offenders are the visa officials in China and India. One college accepted more than 30 applicants, but only seven could get visas."
The AOC wants changes to visa applications, including closer co-operation between colleges, the immigration service and the British Council. "As in other EU states, international work must be recognised as colleges' core business, otherwise we will be hampered in our efforts to meet the targets set by Downing Street," said Ms Clough.