In 2019, the French Constitutional Court (Conseil Constitutionnel) was seized by student unions and associations regarding public higher education tuition fees concerning international students from outside of the European Union. The plaintiffs argued that under paragraph 13 of the preamble of the French constitution, public higher education should be equally accessible to all and free. The Constitutional Court found that modest tuition fees in public higher education, where appropriate and depending on the financial capacity of students, do not go against the principle of equal access to education and the principle of free higher education. The right to education should ensure that access to higher education is financially possible for every student. Thus, limited tuition fees can be set by legislators under the control of the judicial system. Therefore, the Court states that the right to education of international students to access French public higher education system was not violated.

Around the world, higher education communities are overwhelmed by frequent attacks on scholars, students, staff, and their institutions. State and non-state actors, including armed militant and extremist groups, police and military forces, government authorities, off-campus groups, and even members of higher education communities, among others, carry out these attacks, which often result in deaths, injuries, and deprivations of liberty. Beyond their harm to the individuals and institutions directly targeted, these attacks undermine entire higher education systems, by impairing the quality of teaching, research, and discourse on campus and constricting society’s space to think, question, and share ideas. Ultimately, they impact all of us, by damaging higher education’s unique capacity to drive the social, political, cultural, and economic development from which we all benefit.

Through its Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, Scholars at Risk (SAR) responds to these attacks by identifying and tracking key incidents, with the aim of protecting vulnerable individuals, raising awareness, encouraging accountability, and promoting dialogue and understanding that can help prevent future threats. Since 2015, SAR has been publishing Free to Think, a series of annual reports analyzing attacks on higher education communities around the world.

Free to Think 2021 documents 332 attacks on higher education communities in 65 countries and territories. This year was marked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than five million lives. For higher education, the pandemic continued to disrupt academic activity, keeping many institutions in remote states of operation and suspending most academic travel. For scholars and students, the pandemic also continued to raise questions, concerns, and criticisms about state responses to public health crises, government accountability, and societal inequities. Scholars and students took on these issues in the classroom and more public venues, in-person and online, asserting their academic freedom and their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly. They also responded to acute and more long-standing political conflicts, from Myanmar’s coup to the steady erosion of human rights in Turkey, demanding civilian led government and the protection of fundamental freedoms. Frequently, however, individuals and groups opposed to their questions and ideas sought to silence them.

This document lists the international and regional instruments that refer to the right to higher education.

 

FRANÇAIS

اللغة العربية

Key resource

Is French Higher Education truly accessible to all, without any discrimination? What are the impacts of the privatization of Higher Education on the right to equal access to Higher Education and quality education for all?

Focusing on the impacts of inequalities based on place of residence, indirect study costs and privatization on the implementation of the right to Higher Education in France, this document illustrates the challenges related to the realization of the right to higher education. Overcoming these hurdles for a country like France could, a priori, be held up as an example to others.  Lastly, this report highlights France’s legally binding obligations and potential infringements, especially with regard to its role in financing the Higher Education system.

 

FRANÇAIS

This short briefing note addresses the concepts of 'merit' and 'capacity' in relation to higher education from a human rights perspective.

En el presente informe, el Relator Especial sobre la extrema pobreza y los derechos humanos, Olivier De Schutter, observa que a los niños nacidos en familias desfavorecidas se les niega la igualdad de oportunidades: sus posibilidades de alcanzar un nivel de vida decente en la edad adulta disminuyen considerablemente por el mero hecho de que sus padres sean pobres. El Relator Especial examina los canales a través de los cuales se perpetúa la pobreza, en los ámbitos de la salud, la vivienda, la educación y el empleo.

El propio aumento de las desigualdades es un factor importante: cuanto más desiguales son las sociedades, menos permiten la movilidad social, y las desigualdades de riq ueza son especialmente corrosivas en ese sentido. Acabar con los círculos viciosos de la pobreza está a nuestro alcance. Las inversiones en educación y atención a la primera infancia, la educación inclusiva, la provisión de una renta básica universal para los jóvenes, combinada con una mayor fiscalidad de las herencias, y la prohibición de la discriminación por motivos de desventaja socioeconómica son fundamentales para romper los ciclos que perpetúan la pobreza. Las personas en situación de pobreza se enfrentan a una discriminación sistémica en sociedades que siguen estando profundamente segregadas por la riqueza: esto exige remedios sistémicos para superar las divisiones heredadas.

 

ENGLISH  FRANÇAIS

This report, presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly in October 2021, examines the channels through which poverty is perpetuated, in the areas of health, housing, education and employment. The growth of inequalities itself is an important contributing factor: the more unequal societies are, the less they allow for social mobility. The report argues that ending the vicious cycles of poverty is within reach. Investments in early childhood education and care, inclusive education, the provision of a universal basic income for young people combined with an increased taxation of inheritance, and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of socioeconomic disadvantage are key to breaking the cycles that perpetuate poverty. People in poverty face systemic discrimination in societies that remain deeply segregated by wealth: this calls for systemic remedies to overcome inherited divisions.

It features sections on the right to education in relation to poverty, including the right to early childhood care and education, and higher education. 

 

ESPAÑOL   FRANÇAIS

 

In 1995, the parents of an Indian pupil brought a case against University of Natal because her application to medical school was rejected despite the satisfactory results she obtained in her qualifying examinations. They claimed that the admission process was discriminatory because it did not consider all the applications equally, but set higher admission standards for Indian students and lower ones for African students. The parents argued that this is as a violation of ‘equal access to educational institution’ provision of the constitution as well as sections 8(1) and 8 (2) in regard to ‘setting a discriminatory practice’. The Court agreed that while Indian community had been decidedly disadvantaged by the apartheid system, African pupils were even more so. Accordingly, the Court held that a selection system which compensated for this discrepancy does not violate the provisions of sections 8(1) and 8(2) of the Constitution.

Key resource

Treaty bodies are committees of independent experts created under a particular UN treaty. They are mandated to monitor how the states which have ratified the treaty in question comply with their obligations to implement the human rights guaranteed by the treaty, including the right to education. They periodically examine state reports and issue concluding observations on states’ compliance with the treaty, including recommendations.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the UN Committee on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) have covered issues related to higher education in their concluding observations. This document compiles their concerns and recommendations for the period 2016-2021. It is organised by UN treaty Bodies with states listed in alphabetical order.

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