Limiting visas for overseas students would be "a body blow for the British economy", a leading academic has warned.
The Government plans to reduce immigration by restricting visas issued to foreign students and raising language requirements.
But a Higher Education Policy Institute study released today says the measures would cut the number of foreign students coming to UK universities, losing institutions billions of pounds in income.
The report's author, University of East Anglia vice-chancellor Professor Edward Acton, claimed the Government's plans would be "disastrous for universities".
He told Radio 4's Today programme: "They would be a body blow for the British economy.
"Ministers will say that's not what they intend, but it's the purpose and consequence of the proposals if implemented."
Prof Acton said the institute agreed with tackling abuses in the system, but "the level of the cuts they propose involves far more than that and would have a really grave impact".
He said 8% of universities' income came from overseas students, and the Government's plans would slash funding.
But Migrationwatch UK chairman Sir Andrew Green described Prof Acton's report as "nonsense".
Sir Andrew told the BBC: "The statistics on which it is based are thoroughly unsound."
He said the coalition's proposals were directed at bogus students in privately funded higher education institutions, adding: "We are strongly in favour of genuine students."