Protests over the introduction of fees for overseas students' visa extensions grew louder this week as Universities UK demanded that ministers explain the move.
Vice-chancellors have warned the Home Office and the Department for Education and Skills that the decision to charge up to £250 per application threatened to undo the success of the prime minister's initiative to make the UK a more attractive study destination for foreign students.
In a letter last week, UUK calls on home secretary David Blunkett to justify the charges, announced three weeks ago.
The UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs also wrote to Home Office minister Beverley Hughes calling for the fee regulations to be withdrawn until discussions had taken place.
UUK president Roderick Floud said students who started on an English-language course and went on to postgraduate level could end up paying the fee several times because immigration officers did not give them sufficient time to complete their programmes.
Universities are already receiving complaints about the charges, with students deciding not to attend graduation ceremonies to avoid paying and having second thoughts about further study.