Intensive English-language summer programmes in the US have suffered a dramatic drop in enrolment - a possible sign that terrorism-related visa restrictions may be affecting the number of international students.
Universities said they were worried that the near-31 per cent decline over the past two years was a harbinger of problems to come in the wake of tougher visa rules compounded by limits on students from countries with severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The American Association of Intensive English Programs and Institute of International Education, which compiled the figures, said they represented the biggest drop ever recorded.
Many of the students in intensive-English summer programmes are working to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language qualification, which US universities require of international students.
Officials said this meant the enrolment decline could be a sign that there would be a similar drop-off at university level.
US universities, meanwhile, asked for a postponement of a requirement that applicants for visas be interviewed by consular officers. The requirement threatened to delay students and visiting faculty scheduled to arrive at US universities.
The Department of State declined to postpone the provision, but it told its diplomatic missions to give priority to students and faculty ahead of other visa applicants.