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Supreme Court will decide whether government loan scheme is discriminatory

Young people to peacefully demonstrate against student loans policy while they await judges' decision

23 June 2015

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A case which will determine whether hundreds of students will be able to accept university places is to be heard by the Supreme Court.

The UK's top judges will be asked to rule on whether a 2011 change to the government's student loan scheme is discriminatory and amounts to a denial of university education.

Since 2012 children who are lawfully resident in the UK, having 'discretionary' (DLR) or 'limited' (LLR) leave to remain, are no longer eligible for student loans.

Critics of the government policy argue that young people who have been UK residents for most of their lives and attended British schools are now treated as overseas students when it comes to university education.

As well as no longer being eligible for student loans, universities can now charge such young people international fees several times higher than those paid by home students.

Critics of the regulation amendment also say that it takes no account of the fact that many of those affected will come from families which work and pay tax in the UK.

The case of 'T' is listed at the Supreme Court for 24 June 2015 and the appellant is being represented by Paul Heron of Public Interest Lawyers.

'Prohibitively expensive'

In its evidence to the Supreme Court, the government claims the cost of allowing students with DLR and LLR to access student loans would be prohibitively expensive and estimates that around 2,400 young people a year would be affected.

However, research from Just for Kids Law, based on freedom of information (FoI) requests, suggests this is a considerable over estimate, and puts the figure at between 500 and 600 per year.

Yet even an additional 2,400 loans a year is small, compared with the increase in student loans that will be offered following the Chancellor's decision in the 2013 Autumn Statement to lift the cap on overall numbers of students be able to apply for student loans - estimated at 60,000.

Just for Kids Law has been granted permission to provide evidence of the impact of student finance restrictions on lawfully resident students who do not yet have citizenship. The intervention has received pro bono support from David Wolfe QC, Sarah Hannett, Nick Armstrong, and Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers.

The Let us Learn campaign - set up by Just for Kids Law in 2013 - works directly with young people who have been blocked from taking up their university places.

The campaign estimates that around 600 young people a year have been affected since 2012.

Peaceful protest

A group of them will be staging a peaceful protest outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday to highlight the importance of the case to their futures.

Just for Kids Law's education solicitor, Rachel Knowles, said: 'Let us Learn has been contacted by many, many young people who have lived here most of their lives, and whose futures are clearly in the UK.

'They have been through our primary schools, secondary schools and sixth forms. They have worked hard, got good grades and are a credit to the British education system. It cannot be right that when they want to go to university, we suddenly say to them that they are no different from someone who has never set foot in the UK and just wants to come here to study.

She continued: 'Since 2012, they have been denied access to student loans and are charged overseas rates by universities, which can be up to £26,000 a year - way beyond the reach of most ordinary families. It makes no sense to let so much aspiration and ambition go to waste, and we call on the government to let these young people fulfil their potential.'

Dami, pictured, has three A-levels, including an A in psychology, and has been unable to take up her offered place at Royal Holloway University of London, to study criminology and sociology. Dami wants to work in youth justice, but thinks this will be impossible without a degree. She is one of a number of students to be attending the demonstration outside the Supreme Court this week.

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