The Centre has asked all Indian universities and higher education institutions to cancel admissions of foreign diplomats pursuing higher studies.
"Any foreign diplomat wishing to pursue higher studies in any university must give up diplomatic visa and instead obtain student visa," says a notification issued by the University Grants Commission in New Delhi last week.
A UGC spokesman said they received orders from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to strictly follow visa guidelines that don't allow diplomatic visa holders to pursue education.
Sources said the decision was taken at a meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in February after complaints that besides diplomats others with either work visa or journalist visa categories take admissions in universities to prolong their stay in India.
Many diplomats and their dependents are enrolled in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for learning languages and pursuing even doctorates.
The government officials argue the decision was taken after the "matter was considered in detail" on receiving complaints about diplomats pursuing academics here. It is learnt that at least two universities complained to the government that students holding
diplomatic passports had been caught indulging in illegal activities on campus, including sale of banned substances.
Universities also complained that diplomats who register for full-fledged academic courses -- around 10 have enrolled even for PhDs -- failed to meet attendance requirements.
They are granted admission on seats often reserved for foreign students. "It is a waste of seats that could go to genuinely interested students instead," an official said.
But there are critical security reasons too behind the move, senior officials hinted. "There is no reason why students should enjoy diplomatic immunity. Diplomats come to India with the principal task of representing their country. Those who want to come and study should come on study visas," a senior official said.
Government officials also said the change in rules was in conformity with the Vienna Convention that lays down immunities that must be provided to those holding diplomatic visas in a foreign country.