Scotland’s funding system for universities has been faced with a legal dispute from human rights lawyer Phil Shiner. Mr. Shiner, from Public Interest Lawyers, has claimed the policy breaks the European Convention on Human Rights, as it charges students from other parts of the UK.
Students in Scotland do not pay tuition fees, but students from the rest of the UK do. According to the Scottish government, it is within is legal rights to charge the students.
English Legal Battles
Mr. Shiner represents two students, Callum Hurley from Peterborough, and Katy Moore from London, who have been given a judicial review in order to challenge tuition fee increases in English universities. The argument is expected to include a debate on students from underprivileged and ethnic minority backgrounds facing discrimination by the new methods.
In Scotland, Mr. Shiner has examined the fees structure, allowing Scottish students to study for free while English students currently pay between £1,820 and £2,895. This is expected to increase to up to £9,000 in 2012. The human rights lawyer says that ministers north of the border have “misinterpreted the law”.
He also suggested the discrepancy could be against Britain’s Equality Act. However, a spokeswoman for the government in Scotland has said, “”We are clear that the proposals set out are lawful.
“Tuition fee arrangements are based on “ordinary domicile” not nationality.
“In an ideal world, no students would pay fees. Our main priority has to be to protect opportunities for Scottish students to study at Scottish institutions by maintaining free education north of the border.
“With the UK government introducing tuition fees south of the border of up to £9,000 per annum, Scottish students studying in England will continue to receive financial support in the form of bursaries and loans.”
The highest fees possible from September 2012 will be £9,000. The government had said that these fees should be set in “exceptional circumstances” but two thirds of universities have already proposed to charge that amount.
According to the EU ruling, Scotland must treat other EU students in the same way as Scottish students. However, Mike Russell, Scotland’s Education Secretary argues that this could be seen as a cheap way to fund education for Europeans who pay for education in their home countries. He advocates and end to the ruling.