Right judgment

November 14, 2013

The July 2013 court ruling that Newcastle City Council should offer two recent care leavers who sought asylum in the UK loans to allow them to access higher education has been portrayed by sections of the press as a waste of taxpayers’ money. This portrayal is divisive, irresponsible and damaging. We regard the judgment as a victory for the human right to education.

Yonas and Abiy Admasu Kebede came to the UK from Ethiopia in 2004 and were taken into foster care in Newcastle after they were separated from their family. The brothers were granted discretionary leave to remain until 2014, when they will be legally entitled to apply for permanent residence.

Since 2011, prospective students in England with discretionary leave to remain have been disqualified from “home student” status, so they are not entitled to student loans and can be charged overseas fees. In this context, the court ruled that the council’s duties towards young people leaving its care should include meeting the costs of their education: as the appeal judge pointed out, it was extremely unlikely that they would have the resources to pay for higher education. In the case of the Ethiopian brothers, their immigration status meant that they could not access student loans.

Research in Newcastle has shown that care leavers are at particular risk of homelessness, and refugees who secure permanent leave to remain suffer disproportionately high levels of unemployment, or insecure and exploitative work. The brothers belong to both groups, having sought asylum and left care; these are very good reasons to offer them the support they need.

Education is an investment in the future. We believe that all young people should have access to higher education, regardless of their immigration status. Universities also have a responsibility: they could charge asylum seekers and those with discretionary leave to remain home fees or waive them altogether. Some already do so: we urge others to follow suit.

The denial of home student status to young people with discretionary leave to remain is an injustice and compounds the stress and uncertainty they face in rebuilding their lives without knowing if they will be forced to leave the UK once their status expires. The court ruling should be celebrated as a victory in the broader struggle for access to higher education.

Tom Vickers, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Joanna Allan, University of Leeds
Robert Moore, University of Liverpool
Ben Pitcher, University of Westminster
Demelza Jones, Aston University
Umut Erel, Open University
Carol Stephenson, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Ruth Lewis, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Catriona Hugman, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Daniela Sime, University of Strathclyde
Teresa Piacentini, University of Glasgow
Lola Okolosie, teacher and writer
Lucy Michael, University of Hull
Ibrahim Sirkeci, Regent’s University London
Mark Cresswell, Durham University
Paul Francis
Sadie Boniface, University College London
Jeff Goatcher, Nottingham Trent University
Helen Charnley, Durham University
Louise Waite, University of Leeds
Monish Bhatia, University of Huddersfield
Kye Askins, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Hannah Lewis, University of Leeds
Ishan Ashutosh, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Ala Sirriyeh, Keele University
John Clayton, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Gary Craig, Durham University
Ian Fitzgerald, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Rita Chadha, Refugee & Migrant Forum of East London
Emma Jackson, University of Glasgow
Gurminder Bhambra, University of Warwick
Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
Cecily Jones, University of Warwick
Joanne Britton, University of Sheffield
Christopher Hart, Lancaster University
Kirsten Forkert, Birmingham City University
Emily Knox, Loughborough University
Ghazala Mir, University of Leeds
Nick Fox, University of Sheffield
Matt Baillie Smith, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Barbara Howard-Hunt, Birmingham City University
Gwyneth Lonergan, University of Manchester
Simon Goodman, Coventry University
John Moore, University of the West of England
Victoria Armstrong, Durham University
Jo Brewis, University of Leicester
Robert MacDonald, University of Teesside
Afroze Zaidi-Jivraj, University of Birmingham
Damien Short, University of London
Yvette Taylor, London South Bank University
Lucy Robinson, University of Sussex
Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University
Kim Allen, Manchester Metropolitan University
Imran Awan, Birmingham City University
Emily Wykes, University of Nottingham
Leena Kumarappan, London Metropolitan University
Alganesh Messele
Claire Bynner, University of Glasgow
Joanna Virginia Wiseman, Newcastle University
Debra Hayes, Manchester Metropolitan University
Sadie Ryan, University of Glasgow
Kath Sainsbury, Justice First, Teesside
North of England Refugee Service
Lucy Fairley
Young RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research)
International Community Organisation of Sunderland
Kathryn Dodd, retired/independent sociologist
FODI (Friends of the opin for asylum seekers and refugees), Sunderland
Rachel Hurdley, Cardiff University and Trustee, Welsh Refugee Council
Max Farrar, Leeds
Louise Sutcliffe, Newcastle City Council
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East
Hyun-Joo Lim, University of Bath
Catherine Pope, University of Southampton
Kirsty Liddiard, Ryerson University, Toronto
Claire Gregory, De Montfort University, Leicester
Nasar Meer, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Luke Martell, University of Sussex
Lucy Mayblin, University of Sheffield
Jennifer Davidson, University of Strathclyde
Nicki Thorogood, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Bev Skeggs, Goldsmiths University London
Azar Sheibani, London Metropolitan University
Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, University College Dublin
Laura Parker, Asylum Access
Yewa Holiday, Queen Mary University London
Les Back, Goldsmiths University London

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