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Children and young people, Courts, Education

Challenging the government: a young campaigner speaks out

Last week Just for Kids Law provided evidence to the Supreme Court of the impact of student finance restrictions on lawfully resident, British-educated students who do not yet have citizenship. The Supreme Court will rule on whether a 2011 change to the government’s student loan scheme is discriminatory and amounts to a denial of university education.

Background

In a press release, Just for Kids Law explains that in 2011, the criteria for student finance were changed by the Education (Student Fees, Award and Support (Amendment) Regulations 2011, now superseded by the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011. The change took effect from 2012.

Prior to 2011, students with discretionary or limited leave to remain were eligible for student loans: the Education Student Support Regulations 2009 provided that a ‘person with leave to enter or remain’ was eligible. Case law (R (Arogundade) v SSBIS [2012] EWHC 2502 (Admin)) then clarified that people with discretionary or limited leave to remain fell within that definition.

The change means young people who have been here most of their lives and attended British schools are now treated as overseas students when it comes to university education. They are now no longer eligible for student loans, and universities can charge them international fees, which are several times higher than those paid by home students. The regulation amendment takes no account of the fact that many will come from families who work and pay tax here.

The intervention is being led by Just for Kids Law’s Rachel Knowles, with pro bono support from barristers at Matrix Chambers: David Wolfe QC, Sarah Hannett, Nick Armstrong and Karon Monaghan QC.

Just for Kids Law’s evidence to the court included witness statements from 26 young people who have been blocked from attending university because of lack of access to student finance, following the 2011 amendment.

The Let us Learn campaign – which was set up by Just for Kids Law in 2013 – works directly with dozens of ambitious young people who have been blocked from taking up their university places. A group of them staged a peaceful protest outside the Supreme Court last week to highlight the importance of the case to their futures.

Below, one of the young campaigners who helped organise the protest writes about his experiences:

This blog was first published on the Just for Kids website http://www.justforkidslaw.org/ and is republished here with permission.

Campaigning for Change

26 Jun, 2015

By Kimani Cooper, 18 years old

On Wednesday 24th June 2015 I – along with many other frustrated students – stood in Parliament Square outside the Supreme Court entrance, in a show of solidarity with the fight to correct the injustice of being denied the right to an education.

The case being heard in the Supreme Court is about an aspirational young woman who is facing the same barrier as many others, including myself. After sitting A-level exams, she and we have found that we are unable to further our potential by completing university education because we are denied access to a student loan. Denial of the right to attend university is a gross oversight and on Wednesday we were able to show the Supreme Court that we should be treated the same as every other student in the UK.

Arriving at 8:50am, I stood shoulder to shoulder with other young people in the same situation as we stood up for our right to an education. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, and Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North – as well as Peter Kyle MP and Rupa Huq MP – showed their support for the campaign by attending and giving speeches encouraging Let Us Learners to continue with the fight.  The primary purpose of the demonstration was to raise awareness of the case and in this aim we were definitely successful. The demonstration and the issue featured in multiple news outlets including national newspapers, radio and even television. Parliament Square was briefly filled with the sound of frustrated aspirational would-be students chanting “Let Us Learn” and “Young, gifted and blocked”.

At 10:30am the demonstration was packed up as we went in to the court itself to show our support during the hearing. It was presented to the court that the taxes paid by a graduate over a lifetime far exceeds the funds invested in them with a student loan. These figures alone showed that denying us the ability to achieve our full potential in no way benefits British society. On the contrary, it only wastes the investment – financial and other – made at primary/secondary education.

Sitting inside the public gallery, listening to the court case, I felt hopeful as to the prospects of a favourable judgement and of the laws surrounding student finance to be changed.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Challenging the government: a young campaigner speaks out

  1. Not entirely sure how this comes under the ambit of admistratuve justice.

    Paul T Smith – sent from my iPhone

    >

    Posted by Paul Smith | June 29, 2015, 9:44 pm
    • Thanks for the comment, Paul. Government decision-making that affects individuals, and challenges to those decisions, are issues at the heart of administrative justice. This case (about changes to student finance) is an example of using litigation and peaceful protest to challenge a decision with significant impact on a group of people. It also illustrates the engagement of young people with these issues.

      We’d like to hear more about what you think ‘administrative justice’ includes. Please go to the ‘What does administrative justice mean to you’ section of our website and add your views!

      Posted by UKAJI | June 30, 2015, 6:58 am

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