A city law announced at the weekend gives Beijing's growing population of foreign students the official nod to do more of what they already do on the sly - work part-time to pay expenses. Students, many of whom are warned by their schools or local public security bureaus not to work, say they welcome the law as a chance to teach their native languages or do freelance writing. Officials announced at a Foreign Students Management Association meeting on Friday that foreign students should be free of restrictions on work while studying, especially to teach languages, the Beijing Morning Post reported. Previously, work was capped at five hours a week. At the meeting, the paper said, the city government and the Beijing Municipal Education Commission also decided foreign students would be eligible for scholarships and that local officials would recruit students in Europe and Australia. Foreign-language schools are now said to be seeking out foreign students for work as teachers. About 23,000 foreign students are enrolled in Beijing universities. Some students teach as much as they study. Others work in local media or write freelance articles. The number of foreign students has surged over the past 20 years. From 1949 to 1979, about 30,000 foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities, according to the People's Daily, while in 2001 alone 62,000 students registered at 360 universities. Most can afford a year's education, but others seek jobs to earn the money or to take a study break and learn more about China. 'The law would help,' said Australian student Siew Lim, who studied during the autumn semester at the Beijing Second Foreign Languages University. She did two teaching jobs during the semester and would have done more if the jobs had been closer to the university. She knows two other Australian students who teach more regularly. 'I would imagine if there were no deterrent, there would be more people doing it.' Although students have worked despite the previous legal barrier, some have been caught. A student at one Beijing language institute said police took three Swedish students out of a classroom to give them a warning about working. Outside Beijing, where foreigners are more scarce, police watch students more carefully, said Frank Dong, a Beijing-based intermediary who recruits foreign students to teach English. In Beijing, Mr Dong said, the police had a 'more lenient attitude'. Regarding the law, he said: 'This should be a piece of good news for us.'