The government has today successfully defended a judicial review challenge against its decision to raise university tuition fees. The case – brought by two students – alleged that the government acted in breach of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and/or numerous pieces of equality legislation when it took the decision to raise fees. On virtually all the points, the government – and Vince Cable as the relevant minister – were vindicated, both on the substantive effects of the policy and the way in which the decision was made.
You can read the full judgment in the case here (pdf) (and it’s worth doing so to read the arguments of both sides and conclusions of the judge on the likely impact of the tuition fee increase). However, here are a few key from Lord Justice Elias’s judgment:
The fact that someone may be temperamentally or psychologically disinclined to accept a student loan and enter into debt does not justify the conclusion that the right to higher education of such a person has been effectively denied or unjustifiably restricted. (Para 42)
I accept Mr Swift’s [counsel for the government] submission that it is necessary to look at the policies in the round and not simply focus on the increase in fees set down in the regulations. (Para 51)
First, I wholly reject Ms Mountfield’s [counsel for the students] contention that this was a decision taken without proper consultation or analysis. That seems to me to be a travesty of the true position which simply ignores the Browne Report and the extensive debate which took place inside and outside Parliament, both during the period when that investigation was being undertaken and subsequently when modifications to the Browne proposals were under consideration. Moreover, a central focus of the debate was on how those from disadvantaged backgrounds could be encouraged to enter higher education. If this decision could be challenged on the grounds that it was short on analysis, very few decisions could withstand scrutiny. (Para 61)
Nor do I accept her [Ms Mountfield's] contention that the object was motivated solely by ideological beliefs and a desire to save money.” (Para 62).
Read the judgment in full here (pdf).
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.