Fee rights challenge rejected

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Two teenagers who brought a lawsuit against the raising of tuition fees lost their legal battle last Friday.

Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, from London claimed that the decision by the Government to allow fees to rise breached human rights and equality laws.

The teenagers’ representatives claimed that the raise in university fees was a breach of the right to education enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998.
They also claimed that in raising tuition fees the government had failed to give “due regard” to promoting equality of opportunity as required under the Race Relations, Sex Discrimination and Disability Discrimination Acts.

In the documents outlining their argument, the teenagers said that the decision to treble fees was a “major policy change affecting the life chances of a generation of students and billions of pounds of public expenditure. Such a decision should not have been taken without the appropriate degree of rigorous attention to equality needs.”

Sitting in the High Court, Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice King quashed their claim. Elias maintained that despite Business Secretary Vince Cable’s failure to give “rigorous attention required to the package of measures overall”, he was satisfied that “the particular decision to fix the fees at the level reflected in the regulations was the subject of an appropriate analysis.”

He added: “Moreover, all the parties affected by these decisions – government, universities and students – have been making plans on the assumption that the fees would be charged. It would cause administrative chaos, and would inevitably have significant economic implications, if the regulations were now to be quashed.”

The government said that they welcomed the decision of the judges: “We are pleased the court rejected outright the suggestion that our student finance reforms breach students’ human rights.”

The teenagers’ lawyers, Public Interest Lawyers, said: “Whilst our clients are disappointed that the court chose not to quash the regulations, they are pleased with the recognition that the Government failed in its duties to properly think through the equality implications of its decision.”

“The highest court in the land has pointedly not given the government a clean bill of health. It is high time that ministers came clean on the fact that a combination of inexcusably shoddy policy making and coalition horse trading has risked undermining equality of opportunity.”


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