Supreme Court judgment re-opens door to university education to hundreds of British-educated teenagers

Just for Kids Law welcomes ruling that puts right to student loans back to pre-2012 position.
29 Jul 2015

David Lammy MP with Let us Learn campaigners outside the court

Beaurish Tigere, a former head girl, who is lawfully resident in the UK and has been here since age 6, has won the right to apply for a student loan to allow her to take up a university place to study international business management, following a successful Supreme Court challenge.

The ruling will benefit hundreds of other young people who have been similarly blocked from taking up university places.

The Zambian-born 20-year-old achieved A-level grades of A* A C, and has had five unconditional university offers.

Since 2012, young people who are lawfully resident in the UK, having been granted ‘discretionary’ or ‘limited’ leave to remain, are treated as overseas students when it comes to university, regardless of how long they have lived here. This means they are ineligible for student loans, and universities can charge them fees which are several times the current £9,000 maximum payable by home students.

Just for Kids Law intervened in the case on behalf of the Let us Learn campaign (see below). The charity provided the court with examples of dozens of young people who are also blocked from university education because of restrictions on student finance which were introduced three years ago (see below).

The Supreme Court ruled that a blanket ban on student loans to anyone who doesn’t have either ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) in the UK or British citizenship, regardless of their length of residence or strength of their ties to the country, was disproportionate and could not be justified.

Giving the lead judgment, Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said:

‘The reality is, even though she [T] does not have ILR, her established private life here means that she cannot be removed from the UK unless she commits a serious criminal offence and she will almost inevitably secure ILR in due course. She is just as closely connected and integrated into the UK society as her settled peers.’ (para 35)

Explaining the court’s reasoning, Lady Hale said:

‘These young people will…find it hard to understand why they are allowed access to all the public services, including cash welfare benefits, but are denied access to this one benefit, which is a repayable loan.’

 The respondent in the case was the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). The court heard that BIS’s own research, conducted in 2013 by Prof Ian Walker from the department of economics at Lancaster University, showed that male graduates pay £264,000 more in tax during their working lives than non-graduate males; women graduates pay £318,000 more tax than non-graduate women. (para 11)

Prof Walker gave evidence in the case, stating:

 ‘The implication is that there would be sizeable gains to the exchequer in the long run to extending student loans to this relatively small group’. (para 12)

Just for Kids Law estimates that around 600-1,000 students a year have been affected since the restrictions were introduced in 2012.

Lady Hale said:

‘…the numbers affected are not insignificant but a tiny proportion of the student loans which are made every year.’ (para 10)

In his judgment, Lord Hughes said there is no evidence that BIS considered the impact on young people with strong ties to the UK, whose future is clearly here, when it amended the rules.

Welcoming the judgment, Just for Kids Law director Shauneen Lambe said:

‘This ruling is wonderful news for many ambitious and academically successful young people, who would otherwise be blocked from ever entering professions which require a degree. We look forward to working with government to make sure their ability to get a loan is restored in time for this year’s A-level results day on 13 August, so that students who have achieved their grades have the chance to take up their university places in the autumn.’

Notes for editors

  1. R (on the application of Tigere (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Respondent); [2015] UKSC 57.
  2. In 2011, the criteria for student finance were changed by the Education (Student Fees, Award and Support (Amendment) Regulations 2011; now been superseded by the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011. The change took effect from 2012 onwards.
  3. 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 DLR and LLR fell within that definition.
  4. The solicitors acting for the appellant are Paul Heron, Padraig Hughes and Emily McFadden, of Public Interest Lawyers.
  5. Just for Kids Law’s intervention on behalf of the Let us Learn campaign was led by senior education solicitor Rachel Knowles, with pro bono support from barristers at Matrix Chambers: David Wolfe QC, Karon Monaghan QC, Sarah Hannett, and Nick Armstrong.
  6. Our evidence to the court includes witness statements from 36 young people we have worked with directly, who have been blocked from attending university because of lack of access to student finance, following the 2011 amendment. (More information on request.)
  7. Our intervention was supported by Mossbourne Academy head teacher Peter Hughes. In Peter Hughes’ statement to the court, he said:
    ‘We teach every pupil that if they work hard, they can achieve their goals and choose to go to university, if they would like. However, it has been devastating to learn that, for a number of our pupils, this is simply not the case, because they cannot access student finance due to not having indefinite leave to remain or citizenship.’
  8. The National Union of Teachers also raised concerns about the impact of the 2011 change on schools and social mobility
  9. Just for Kids Law is an award-winning charity which supports children and young people in difficulty.
  10. Let us Learn was set up in 2013 by former head girl Chrisann Jarrett, after she found she was unable to take up a place at the London School of Economics to study law, because she could not access student finance.
  11. Education is a devolved power and England is the only country in the UK where students with DLR and LLR are entirely ruled out from receiving student loans.