The UK's new points-based immigration system will result in "the most sensitive period for 20 years" for the recruitment of overseas students.
Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said the system, which is intended to make the visa system more open and transparent, places "substantial" requirements on institutions to report to the Home Office when students do not attend courses or drop out altogether.
He said: "Doing things better than other countries takes time and effort; running some of the new compliance aspects of this system will also take time and effort.
"Our fear is that universities may redeploy some of their staff who currently give students support and assistance, to managing the information requirements of the Home Office.
"We would undermine one of the UK's great strengths, our pastoral support, if we did."