London, June 25 : Britain's universities are becoming increasingly over-reliant on fees from overseas students, a standards watchdog has warned.
Peter Williams, head of the Quality Assurance Agency, which monitors standards in universities, said some overseas students believed they just had to pay fees to get a degree.
"We have to make clear that doesn't operate here," The Independent quoted Williams as saying after the publication of three reports by the agency highlighting degree standards in universities.
He also counselled against the growing practice of universities using agents to recruit overseas students instead of carrying out interviews themselves, arguing that it "could mean lowering standards".
The QAA's warning comes after a senior academic, Professor Geoffrey Alderman, warned that universities were turning a "blind eye" to plagiarism by international students because they needed their fee income.
Williams also argued that university lecturers were being told to "mark positively" to ensure their institution had enough firsts to show up well in league tables.
According to the report, the top 10 universities for overseas (non-EU) student recruits in 2006-7 were as follows:
1 Manchester 2,815
2 University of the Arts, London 2,675
3 London Metropolitan 2,665
4 Nottingham 2,610
5. Uni College London
6. Warwick 2,320
7 Sunderland 2,220
8 Imperial College London 2,160
9 Northumbria 1,960
10 Middlesex 1,700