In a written statement to Parliament, immigration minister Damian Green said that “entry clearance officers” would be able to refuse a student visa if they doubted the applicant was genuine.
They will also be able to refuse entry to students who fail to attend an interview “without providing a reasonable explanation”.
The UK Border Agency plans to interview between 10,000 and 14,000 applicants over the coming year.
The changes, which will come into force on 30 July, are to “ensure students seeking to abuse the immigration system are identified and refused a visa for the UK”, Mr Green said.
A series of pilot interviews of 2,300 applicants from 47 countries, which ran from December 2011 to February 2012, found that 32 per cent could have been refused a visa “on grounds of genuineness”.
The statement does not break down the figures between those applying to colleges and university applicants.
Seventeen per cent of those interviewed were refused a visa under existing powers.
The study’s findings “indicate that targeted overseas interviews, supported by new powers of refusal, are useful additional tools to support entry clearance officers to identify and tackle [abuse of the system]”, Mr Green’s statement says.
“These risk-based controls will be used alongside the wide range of other checks already operated by the UK Border Agency.”
The news comes amid growing speculation that the government may remove students from net migration figures.
Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported that the prime minister, David Cameron, is considering the move because of fears the UK could lose billions of pounds if students are caught up in the government’s pledge to reduce net migration to below 100,000 by 2015.
The newspaper quoted a Downing Street source as saying Mr Cameron is “definitely considering a change in policy”.