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-- Major departments in British universities such as physics, engineering and computing could collapse without students from non-European Union countries such as India, a vice-chancellor has said.

A large number of Indian students come to the UK every year to enrol on courses in these subjects in various universities.

Professor Paul Wellings, vice-chancellor of the Lancaster University, told The Times that international students were propping up key disciplines in higher education institutions in the UK.

International students from India and other non-EU countries contribute 8 per cent of the total income of British universities. Last year, they paid nearly 1.9 billion pounds in tuition fees.

The Times reported that some vice-chancellors were concerned about the new points-based visa system, and believed that the system was deterring foreign students, who were reportedly subjected to such long delays that they risk missing the start of term.

Professor Wellings told The Times: "There are some disciplinary areas that are underpinned by international students, such as computing, engineering and physics. They have a disproportionate share of international students".

He added: "If we took out those international students I think we would see some departments starting to implode...and the pattern of subjects would also change quite quickly. To some extent international students are making sure the research and knowledge fabric is being maintained."

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