Upon hearing the Supreme Court Judges’ verdict, there was nothing but tears and joy.
Dami Makinde, Let us Learn project co-lead
The right to an education is essential in ensuring that all children and young people are able to contribute to society, and a university degree is vital for many to be able to reach their potential. But many young migrants who grew up in the UK face serious barriers to a university education due to arcane rules around eligibility for student finance support. This was made even more difficult by a 2011 change to the rules which restricted eligibility for student finance for young migrants to those with indefinite leave to remain.
Beaurish Tigere, originally from Zambia, had lived in the U.K since she was six years old, and was a lawful UK resident, having been granted limited leave to remain. Beaurish achieved A-Level grades of A*, A and C and had unconditional offers from 5 universities. However, the 2011 rule change meant that she was classed as an overseas student, which meant she was ineligible for a student loan and universities could charge her fees which were much more than the current £9,000 maximum payable by home students.
She is just as closely connected and integrated into the UK society as her settled peers.
Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court.
Beaurish took the government to court over this policy, arguing that the 2011 change was disproportionate and unjustified. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Just for Kids Law intervened in the case, presenting the court with examples of people who were blocked from university because of student finance restrictions. These examples were collected with the help of young activists from Let us Learn, a young-migrant-led project set up by Just for Kids Law to campaign for the rights of young migrants to access higher education. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Beaurish's favour, forcing the government to reverse its position and opening up eligibility for student finance to those with limited leave to remain.
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.
Shauneen Lambe, Co-founder, Just for Kids Law
What happened next?
The Supreme Court judgment paved the way to university for young people who had previously been blocked from higher education. However, it was not the end of the fight. Some are still forced to wait years after being granted status before being able to apply, while many young people who grew up and were educated in the UK are still unable to access student finance at all. After the case concluded, the Let us Learn project continued to advocate for the rights of young UK migrants, releasing the film Young, Gifted and Blocked to highlight the situation for those barred from a university education because of their status.
In the following years, the Let us Learn project broadened from its focus on education to fighting for the rights of young migrants across the board, in particular the impact of rising Home Office fees. In September 2019, the project spun out into an independent organisation called We Belong - one of the first young-migrant-led organisations of its kind in the UK. We published an evaluation of the process of setting up a new charity together with We Belong in February 2020.