The highest court in Britain has ruled that the current rules surrounding access to student finance are ‘discriminatory’ and must be changed.
This means that some young people who have been in the country lawfully for three years will now be eligible to apply for student loans, enabling some young asylum seekers to access university.
The judgment comes following a challenge supported by children’s charity Just For Kids Law that the current rules were discriminatory and interfered with young people’s right to education.
In 2012, a tightening of government regulations meant that young asylum seekers and other young migrants in Britain perfectly legally were no longer eligible to access student finance if they had limited leave to remain.
To make matters worse, they were re-classified as international students, meaning they were liable to pay fees usually in the region of £15,000 a year and often substantially more.
The current regulations were challenged on the basis that the system is discriminatory, and the court was asked to consider whether they constitute a disproportionate interference with a young person’s right to education, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court ruled that the current requirement for young people to have indefinite leave to remain in order to be able to access student finance was not justified.
In its judgment, it ruled that young people with no prospect of leaving Britain who have been lawfully resident here for three years would be able to access student finance and would be charged the same fees as UK nationals.
Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: “It’s extremely welcome that the courts have recognised that the current system wastes young lives: squandering talent and callously blocking bright, gifted young people from achieving their full potential.
“Many of the young people who are prevented from accessing university arrived in Britain as child asylum seekers, completely alone and penniless having fled horrors in their home countries.
“Despite this traumatic start to life, these young people are often keen to work hard and go on to overcome significant hurdles to achieve well in school. They are then forced to go through the extremely distressing experience of watching their friends go on to university while the door is cruelly slammed in their own faces.
“It’s unfortunate that the Government needed the courts to remind it that the right to education should be free from discrimination.”