We recently acted for a client who was refused her application for a student loan on the basis that she did not meet the criteria of three years ordinarily resident in the UK prior to starting University. She had recently been granted humanitarian protection in the UK as it was not safe for her to return to her home country.

This rule was brought in for students starting courses after 1 August 2019 and we issued a challenge to the Secretary of State for Education, arguing that the measure was discriminatory on the basis that the same requirement does not apply to those with refugee status and that there was no objective justification for treating these two groups differently.

The Secretary of State for Education agreed that humanitarian protection and refugee status were no different for the purposes of entitlement to student support and that the “operation of the ‘three year ordinarily resident in the UK requirement’ was discriminatory in the Claimant’s case”.

The Secretary of State agreed to instruct the Student Loans Company to dis-apply the measure contained in paragraph 5(1)(b) of Schedule 1 Part 2 of the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011 allowing our client to make an application for student support which would include a loan to cover her tuition fees as well as a loan to cover her maintenance.

The Secretary of State also agreed to provide guidance to our client’s course provider setting out his view that “it is obliged to grant the claimant home fees status” effectively dis-applying the measure in paragraph 6(1)(b) of Schedule 1 of the Higher Education (Fee Limit Condition) (England) Regulations 2017 which governs whether or not a higher education provider can charge home fees or international fees.

As well as securing this successful outcome for our client we are delighted that this case will now pave the way for significant numbers of other people granted humanitarian protection to apply successfully for home fees status and student finance pending the government’s amendment of the regulations.

In a previous case on this issue taken by Adam Hundt at Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors, in settling the claim, the government agreed to consider how the 2011 regulations should be amended. This has not happened to date.

In response to our case, the Secretary of State confirmed that, “it is not in the Department’s interest for others in the claimant’s position to be denied student finance on the same basis” and has committed to issue information to providers regarding home fee status pending any further action to amend the regulations.

There is an urgent need to ensure that those advising students about finances are sharing the correct information with prospective students and current students with humanitarian protection and that they have the tools to challenge refusals for support where necessary. We are currently seeking funding and partnerships to make this happen and would welcome support from colleagues in the higher education sector and other relevant bodies. Please get in touch direct with Michael Bates: [email protected] 

Our client was represented by Zoe Leventhal from Matrix chambers and Michael Bates and Kasper Meidell from Central England Law Centre