Theresa May, the home secretary, announced in a speech earlier this month that the government will "extend radically" the UK Border Agency's scheme of interviews for student visa applicants from non-EU countries. The scheme started last year with 2,300 interviews for applicants from Pakistan.
Critics have warned that the new interviews could act as a deterrent to students planning to attend UK universities.
A Home Office spokeswoman said in a statement to Times Higher Education that the interviews "won't just cover English language, Entry Clearance Officers carrying out the interview will also consider whether an applicant is a genuine student".
The spokeswoman said this would take account of "the immigration history of the applicant, in the UK and other countries"; "the applicant's education history, study and post study plans; "the financial circumstances of the applicant"; and "the course provider and agents".
However, the Home Office was unable to provide details of the cost of the scheme, or of how it will be staffed. The UKBA is already said to be stretched on staffing levels.
The spokeswoman said: "We will open up discussions with colleagues in other government departments on the details of delivery."
Ms May's speech was heavily criticised by Edward Acton, the University of East Anglia vice-chancellor who has led Universities UK's lobbying for university-sponsored overseas students to be removed from the government's target to cut net migration.
Speaking to THE earlier this month, he said of the extra interviews: "Foreign reporting tends to be quite well informed and I think it is quite likely that the greatest offence will be taken by the best applicants, who see a lot of what Mrs May projects abroad as essentially hostile."