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.

 هذا المحتوى يعرض الإطار الدولي لحقوق الإنسان الذي يشير صراحة إلى الحق في التعليم العالي.

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

 

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اللغة العربية

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L’Enseignement Supérieur français est-il vraiment accessible à toutes et tous, sans discrimination ? Quels sont les impacts de la privatisation croissante de l’Enseignement Supérieur sur le droit à l'accès à l’enseignement supérieur et à un enseignement de qualité pour toutes et tous ? 

Le présent document se focalisant sur l’impact des inégalités en fonction du lieu de résidence des étudiant·e·s, des coûts indirects des études et de la privatisation dans la réalisation du droit à l’Enseignement Supérieur en France, il illustre les défis liés à la réalisation du droit à l’Enseignement Supérieur, y compris pour un pays comme la France, qui pourrait, a priori, être considéré comme un exemple.  Un éclairage est fait sur les obligations juridiques de la France et ses éventuels manquements, notamment au regard du financement de l’Enseignement Supérieur.

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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.

 

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

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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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Higher education is too often dissociated from the right to education. In many countries tuition fees are on the rise, and only the privileged have access to, or succeed in completing, higher education, making it difficult to argue that there is an actual right to higher education to be enforced. However, international human rights law is clear: the right to education includes the obligation of states to ensure that higher education is made accessible to all based on capacity.

In addition, states have an obligation to progressively introduce free higher education, an obligation which is yet to be implemented globally. Confronted with drastic changes worldwide in terms of rising inequalities, human movement, growing digitalization and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is high time to clarify existing obligations as well as what aspects of the right to higher education might require further explanation considering new contexts and challenges.

This publication aims to help guide policy-makers, civil society and the international education community, to fully enforce the right to higher education and ensure that the human-rights based approach is placed at the heart of the higher education debate.

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.