The United Kingdom is slowly earning a new reputation among would-be international students. Although the nation – as home to such heavyweights of higher education as Oxford, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics – has long been a highly sought-after destination for international students from around the world, recent legislation has begun to mar this once-sterling renown.

Thanks to a new series of visa regulations that came into effect in April 2012, aspiring international students seeking admission to colleges and universities in the UK now face more stringent questions than ever. University officials say the government’s new immigration standards are to blame for recent declines in international student enrollment.

The effect of these regulations, which mandate more rigorous limits on the ability of international students to work within the UK as well as higher English-language proficiency standards, have been independently verified by a number of sources. Statistics from UCAS, a student-centered higher education consultancy service provider based in the UK, show that while there were more than 158,000 international student applications filed in 2011, just 145,000 applications were submitted in 2012. By contrast, there were 182,000 applicants in 2010, the last full year prior to the announcement of these new standards. Nor is UCAS the only organization to report this trend. Figures from another consultancy, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, showed the number of Indian students studying in the UK had fallen by 23.5%.

Though it is still early days, many UK educators believe that such a trend seen is an ominous sign of things to come if the UK does not regain its former reputation for warmth and openness. After all, as international students and travelers of all types can attest, people – not policies – should be a country’s hallmark.

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