High Court rules that student finance regulations discriminated against students who were unable to prove their immigration status in time due to pandemic delays

Friday 7 January 2022

Jawad Naeem was represented by Amanda Weston QC and Gráinne Mellon of the Garden Court Public Law Team. They were instructed by Keith Lomax, solicitor, of Watkins Solicitors on behalf of the Claimant.

Re Jawad Naeem v Secretary of State for Education and Kyra Morris [2022] EWHC 15 (Admin)

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The High Court has ruled that two students who were unable to prove they had indefinite leave to remain prior to the deadline date set in regulations governing student loans were unlawfully discriminated against by the Secretary of State for Education.

The court ruled that the Secretary of State for Education breached both students’ rights under Article 14 (protection from discrimination) and Article 2 of the First Protocol of the ECHR (right to education).

Jawad Naeem and Kyra Morris are both young people who have lived in the UK for some time. Both had intended to use the Home Office Super Priority System to obtain confirmation of their indefinite leave prior to the first year of their studies. However, when the Home Office, with only a few days’ notice, withdrew the Priority Service on 31 March 2020 due to the pandemic, both students had no option but to apply using the slower route.

They both started their degrees at their respective universities in the autumn term in 2020 and obtained confirmation of indefinite leave to remain. However, they discovered that they were unable to obtain student finance if they did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK by 1 September before the start of the first term of their respective courses. For Kyra Morris the Home Office issued confirmation on 4 September, just a few days after the deadline under the regulations, and Jawad Naeem’s confirmation came through later in the term. They also discovered they were precluded by the student loan regulations from obtaining a student loan for the duration of their degree courses, not just the first year. Both went through the appeal procedure without success, despite Independent Adjudicators appointed by the Secretary of State for Education concluding that they were not at fault but were in a difficult and unfair position due to Home Office delay resulting from the pandemic.

Without student funding, both students incurred significant debt and were at risk of having to withdraw from their studies.  

Mr. Naeem, supported by Ms. Morris, brought judicial review proceedings arguing that the application in their cases of the requirement in the Student Finance Regulations that they must be “settled” in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of their courses to be eligible for student finance was discriminatory and contrary to Article 14 of the ECHR in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court concluded the Secretary of State for Education unlawfully discriminated against the students by treating them less favourably than those who were not affected by the sudden withdrawal of the Super Priority Scheme. The court remedied the unlawful discrimination granting a declaration and a quashing order in this case.

The Secretary of State has now agreed to an order to re-determine Mr. Naeem and Ms. Morris’s application for student finance as soon as practicable, disapplying the requirement to demonstrate “settled status” by 1 September in paragraph 2(1)(a)(i) of the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011.

Ms. Morris previously gave an interview to ITV about the difficulties she has faced in accessing student finance which is available here.

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