Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Tuition fee challenge fails

Tuition fee challenge fails

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 17 February 2012

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “We are pleased the Court rejected outright the suggestion that our student finance reforms breach students’ human rights.

“The Court recognised the consultation and analysis we carried out. It also recognised the extensive debate which took place, both inside and outside Parliament, on how those from disadvantaged backgrounds can be encouraged to enter higher education.

“Accordingly, the Court has not agreed the claimants’ request to quash the regulations, which set out tuition fee limits. This means that students and universities have the certainty to plan for the next academic year, and the Government’s higher education policies remain the same.”

Notes to editors:

Applications to begin university this autumn – the first year of the new student finance system – have held up well. UCAS figures out last month showed the proportion of English school leavers applying to university today is greater than ever before, barring last year. It is encouraging that applications from people from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds remain strong, with only a 0.2 per cent decrease, less than for other groups.

As the judgement handed down by the Court says:

· “…given the existence of the various measures which are directed specifically at increasing university access to poorer students, I do not think that at this stage it is sufficiently clear that as a group they will be disadvantaged under the new scheme.” (Paragraph 52)

· “I wholly reject Ms Mountfield’s contention that this was a decision taken without proper consultation or analysis. That seems to me to be a travesty of the true position … a central focus of the debate was on how those from disadvantaged backgrounds could be encouraged to enter higher education.” (Paragraph 61)

· “Various other proposals were considered and cogent reasons were given for rejecting them. I do not think that in those circumstances the court could properly find that the decision was unjustified.” (Paragraph 65)

Public Sector Equality Duty

· “This was not legislation passed in a vacuum with no appreciation of the likely effects on protected groups. If the question were whether there had been adequate consultation about the effects of the proposals on the lower socio-economic groups, the only conceivable answer in my view would be that there had been.” (Paragraph 90)

· “There is no basis whatsoever to suggest that the imposition of fees at the proposed level will discriminate directly against any of the protected groups.” (Paragraph 93)

· “The Secretary of State engaged fully with the implications for the economically disadvantaged and therefore with the adverse impact on minority groups… various measures have been adopted to assist them. To that extent it is wrong for the claimants to say that the Secretary of State did not focus on steps designed to promote equality of opportunities.” (Paragraph 94)

· “…there has on any view been very substantial compliance with these equality duties.” (Paragraph 95)

· “…for reasons I have given, there has been very substantial compliance in fact, and an adequate analysis of implications on protected groups of the fee structure itself, these considerations reinforce my very clear conclusion that quashing the orders would not be appropriate.” (Paragraph 99)

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