Students to fight fees hike in court

Two sixth-form students have launched legal action against what they claim is the government’s “unlawful” decision to treble the tuition fee cap to £9,000.

October 28, 2011

Callum Hurley and Katy Moore argue that the fee increase breaches their right to education, which is enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1999.

Under a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, any state which sets up higher education institutions must ensure there is a right of access to them, which is “effective” and not theoretical or illusory.

The 17-year-olds claim a potential debt level of £50,000 under the new fee regime makes the right to access education “illusory” because it will deter so many young people from poor backgrounds.

The hearing will be heard at the High Court in London on 1 and 2 November.

The two-day case will be heard by a Court of Appeal Judge sitting with a High Court judge.

It follows a ruling on 23 June by Mr Justice Collins that the pair had grounds to proceed in their claim.

The case has been brought by Public Interest Lawyers, a Birmingham-based firm which is also behind a legal challenge by English students against fees policy in Scotland.

Phil Shiner, who is leading both cases, has argued it is illegal to charge £9,000 tuition fees to English students when Scottish and other European Union students pay nothing.

The firm says the latest case must be read in light of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which the UK is a signatory, which the firm says requires states to work progressively towards free higher education.

The claimants also argue that, in the rush to pass the regulations, Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not discharge his duty to give due regard to issues of equality.

In giving permission to proceed to a full hearing, Mr Justice Collins said it was “arguable” that “there has been insufficient regard paid to the question of participation and to the likelihood (a possibility recognised by the defendant [Mr Cable]) that fewer low income potential students will want to take the financial risk.”

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