LONDON - BRITAIN has temporarily suspended student visa applications from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh after a sharp rise in numbers, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said on Sunday.

It has stopped accepting applications for at least a month while it investigates.

The UKBA has not released figures of numbers of applications, but the BBC said 13,500 from northern India alone were submitted in the last three months of last year, compared with 1,800 in the same period of 2008.

Jeremy Oppenheim, of the UKBA, said: 'We continually check and monitor all student applications and education providers to ensure that they meet the required standards set by the Points Based System.

'As a result of this routine monitoring and an increase in applications we have temporarily stopped accepting new applications from North India, Nepal and Bangladesh while we carry out an investigation to ensure they are all genuine.'

The suspension of the applications follows recent media reports that unscrupulous businessmen are helping thousands of migrants from India and Pakistan to obtain a place at bogus colleges in Britain. -- AFP