There is an indisputable right to higher education : the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC) provides that higher education ‘shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education (Article 13.3.c). If there is no requirement for higher education to be universally accessible, States must ensure that higher education is equally accessible on the basis of ‘capacity’. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) explains that the ‘capacity’ of individuals is ‘assessed by reference to all their relevant expertise and experience’ (CESCR, General Comment 13, para. 18).
The right to higher education does not allow for any form of discrimination. However, all countries face challenges guaranteeing equal access to higher education. Issues such as privatisation of higher education and raising tuition fees represent a threat to equal access to higher education, especially in contexts where structural inequalities - such as, for example, class or territorial inequalities - persist. Women and minority groups’ (such as migrants and disabled) may also have more difficulties in accessing higher education.