We all know that the trebling of university tuition fees has sparked anger, riots and a decline in university applications amongst current and prospective students but what does it mean in terms of human rights? The £9,000 cap is preposterous and has implications of extreme long-term debt for students starting university in autumn 2012 and will limit who can afford to apply to university in the first place. It is not, therefore, farfetched to suggest that the rise in tuition fees is denying some people’s right to higher education and this is exactly why two teenagers are taking action and bringing a judicial review to the high court against the government, on grounds of a violation of human rights.
Katy Moore and Callum Hurley, both 17, began their legal challenge on 1st November 2011 and aim to prove that the rise in tuition fees is a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and also violates the Race Relations, Sex Discrimination and Disability Acts. Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who specialise in human rights cases, is representing the students in the judicial review. He argues that the rise of fees is in direct conflict to the right to education set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. Whilst the act does not concern itself directly with higher education, it does place infringements upon things that limit access to higher education, in this case the scandalous price that the government are putting upon students and the diversion of funds away from subsidising a university education. Secondly, Shiner argues that the promotion of equality of opportunity was not given sufficient “due regard” by the government, which is required under the aforementioned discrimination acts.
The right to an education is one of the most important as it can be life-changing and to deny it has serious implications. Higher education should not be selective and no one, of any age (as this fee rise will affect mature students as much as teenagers), should feel that they are being pressured into turning away from the possibility of further education. Knowledge is a powerful tool and the right to it, is vital. The very fact that the human rights lawyer bringing the case to court on behalf of Moore and Hurley needs a degree to do his job, proves what a university education can do in terms of the fight for human rights and contributing to the domestic and global community.