17/02/2012 04:02 GMT | Updated 17/02/2012 06:32 GMT

Callum Hurley, Katy Moore To Hear Tuition Fees Unlawful Case Verdict

UPDATE: Katy Moore and Callum Hurley "partially win" their High Court case over tuition fee increase, the BBC is reporting.

Two teenagers who took the government to court after arguing that the tuition fee increase broke human rights laws will hear whether they have been successful in their challenge.

On Friday, the High Court is to rule whether the government has acted unlawfully by breaching the 2010 Equality Act.

Lawyers for 17-year-olds Callum Hurley, from Peterborough, and Katy Moore, from Brixton, south-west London, say allowing universities to charge students up to £9,000 a year is unlawful.

They argue the move will erect "a barrier" to higher education and threatens to widen the already large gap between rich and poor.

Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice King, sitting in London are being asked to declare that the government has failed to comply with its obligations under Article 2, Protocol 1, and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the right to education without discrimination.

The judges were told at a recent hearing that the less well-off, the disabled and members of black minority ethnic groups would be particularly hit.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing the teenagers, said opportunities to obtain university degrees and seek a better life in this country were "becoming extraordinarily unequal".

She argued Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is responsible for higher education, had failed when fixing the new fees to comply with his statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity.

The regulations will increase the cap on fees from £3,290 per annum to £9,000 per annum with effect from 1 September this year.

Mountfield said it was an increase by "a factor of almost three" and added: "Tuition fees are so high relative to average family earnings, and the burden of debt prospective students must confront is so great, that these fees amount to a barrier to effective access to the higher educational institutions which exist in this country."

The UK was "one of the least equal societies among OECD countries" and the income gap between rich and poor had widened in the last 30 years.

The legal action was launched after the students' solicitors, Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), took advice from one of the UK's leading human rights lawyers, Rabinder Singh QC, who has since become the first full-time High Court judge of Asian extraction.

Advice was also received from Professor Aileen McColgan, barrister and professor at King's College London.

Katy, from Brixton, south-west London, is studying biology, chemistry, maths and history for her A-levels at Lambeth Academy. She hopes to become a research scientist, exploring cells, diseases, new treatments and cures as a career.

Callum, from Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, attends Peterborough Regional College, where he is studying for a level 3 BTEC in web development and wants to go to university to study IT.

Tessa Gregory, of Public Interest Lawyers, which represented the teenagers, said they were "disappointed" that the court chose not to quash the regulations but pleased with the court's criticism of the Government's failure over its equality duties.

Gregory said: "In its ruling the court made a clear declaration that the government, when it passed the regulations increasing tuition fees, failed to comply with its public sector equality duties.

"It found the Government's analysis on equality issues was inadequate.

"That the court made this finding in relation to such a key plank of the Government's higher education policy cannot but reflect badly on these rushed reforms."

She added: "Whilst our clients, Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, are disappointed that the court chose not to quash the regulations, they are pleased with the recognition that the government failed in its duties to properly think through the equality implications of its decision.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills welcomed the court's decision, saying: "We are pleased the court rejected outright the suggestion that our student finance reforms breach students' human rights.

"The court recognised the consultation and analysis we carried out.

"It also recognised the extensive debate which took place, both inside and outside Parliament, on how those from disadvantaged backgrounds can be encouraged to enter higher education."