Two teenagers are seeking judicial review of the government’s decision to almost treble tuition fees for university from £3,375 per year to £9,000 in 2012.
Callum Hurley, a 16-year-old from Peterborough, and Katy Moore, 17 from London, are being represented by the law firm Public Interest Lawyers. The law firm specialises in human rights cases.
The students are claiming that the rise in tuition fees breaches equality legislation as it discriminates against students from lower-income families and ethnic minorities, who are disproportionately from lower-income homes.
They want the court to review the lawfulness of the government’s decision. Judicial review does not examine whether the decision itself is lawful; instead it examines the decision making process and whether the government, or other public body, had the authority to make the decision in the first place. In addition, judicial review can declare a decision unlawful if it was taken in breach of human rights law.
Their lawyer, Phil Shiner, says that the government failed to properly consult over the effects of the changes and whether they are in compliance with equality laws. He argues that the increase in tuition fees is a breach of Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Article 14 ECHR states that the rights and freedoms contained in the Convention are secured for everyone without discrimination on any grounds.
The government has tried to pacify critics of the fee increase by earmarking £150million for a scholarship scheme. The scheme will allow bright students from lower-income backgrounds to attend university for free for the first two years of their course. In addition, the government is demanding that universities find new ways of attracting a wider mix of students, including those from ethnic minority and poorer backgrounds.
Hurley said that the new fees risk “the future of our country and its ability to produce professionals so vitally needed in our economy”.
His lawyer Phil Shiner said that the government had “rushed” the changes without “pausing for real thought”. He added: “It is disgraceful and our clients seek to challenge its lawfulness.”
The teenagers’ legal action against the government is being funded by legal aid. The application for judicial review will be lodged at the High Court in March 2011.