Lawyer for two 17-year-olds will argue decision to let universities almost treble fees contravenes human rights and equality laws
Two teenagers have begun a case in the high court against the government's decision to let universities almost treble tuition fees next year.
Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, both 17, argue that the decision to raise fees to up to £9,000 a year from next autumn contravenes human rights and equality legislation.
Their case is expected to last two days and has been paid for through legal aid and pro bono work.
Sam Jacobs, representing the students for Public Interest Lawyers of Birmingham, said there were two grounds for bringing the case.
He will argue first that the rise in fees is in breach of the right to education protected in the Human Rights Act 1998. That right does not guarantee free higher education, but it does place curbs on steps that limit access to higher education, he will tell the court.
He will also argue that the government failed to give "due regard" to promoting equality of opportunity as required under the Race Relations, Sex Discrimination and Disability Discrimination Acts.
Female, disabled people and ethnic minority graduates tend to earn less over their lifetime than male, non-disabled, white graduates, Jacobs will say.
The case, which is being heard by Mr Justice King and Lord Justice Elias, has been urged to come to a conclusion within weeks because thousands of students have already started applying for university places for next autumn.
Last month, the first set of statistics on applications to university next year, published by the Universities and Colleges and Admissions Service (Ucas), showed a near 12% drop in the number of UK-born candidates.
The decision to treble fees was a "major policy change affecting the life chances of a generation of students and billions of pounds of public expenditure", the documents outlining the claimants argument say. "Such a decision should not have been taken without the appropriate degree of rigorous attention to equality needs."
Hurley was one of the thousands of demonstrators kettled during the student protests in December.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, he said he was representing thousands of students from poor backgrounds who would be deterred from applying to university because of how much they would have to pay back after they graduated. Neither of his parents went to university.
Hurley, who is from Peterborough and is studying for a BTec in software development, said the government ignored protests: "Taking legal action will achieve much more."
Moore, who is studying for A-levels at an academy school in south London, said her peers were confused about how much they would pay in tuition fees once they graduated. "This makes it difficult to decide what to do about our futures," she said.