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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.

 

FRANÇAIS

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

Dans le présent rapport, le Rapporteur spécial sur les droits de l’homme et l’extrême pauvreté, Olivier De Schutter, constate que les enfants nés dans des familles défavorisées ne peuvent prétendre à l’égalité des chances : les perspectives qu’ils ont de jouir d’un niveau de vie décent à l’âge adulte sont en effet considérablement réduites du simple fait que leurs parents sont pauvres.

Le Rapporteur spécial examine les mécanismes qui perpétuent la pauvreté dans les domaines de la santé, du logement, de l’éducation et de l’emploi. La montée des inégalités est en soi un facteur déterminant : plus les sociétés sont inégales, moins elles permettent la mobilité sociale, et la répartition inégale des richesses a un effet particulièrement dévastateur à cet égard. Nous pouvons parfaitement mettre fin au cercle vicieux de la pauvreté. La solution, pour ce faire, passe par des investissements dans les secteurs de l’éducation et de la protection de la petite enfance, ainsi que dans l’éducation inclusive, par l’instauration d’un revenu minimum universel pour les jeunes combinée à une hausse des droits de succession, et par l’interdiction de la discrimination fondée sur les désavantages socio-économiques.

Les personnes en situation de pauvreté font face à une discrimination généralisée dans des sociétés où la ségrégation par la richesse reste très marquée ; aussi des mesures de nature systémique s’imposent-elles pour surmonter les divisions héritées du passé.

 

ENGLISH   ESPAÑOL

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

 

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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.

The number of forcibly displaced persons is on the rise worldwide, and they are displaced for increasingly protracted periods. Access to education for refugee children and youth remains a major concern, including at the higher education level. While data on refugee access to higher education remain scarce and incomplete, it is estimated that only 3 per cent of refugees were enrolled in higher education in 2021. This figure stands in contrast to a global gross enrolment ratio (GER)1 in higher education of 38 per cent worldwide in 2018. Against this background, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set the 15by30 target, meaning that by 2030 15 per cent of refugees should gain access to higher education. In order to reach this target, the access to host countries’ higher education systems is of particular importance, as 83 per cent of refugee youth who are enrolled in higher education (for whom data are available) are enrolled in their host countries. The present Policy Paper has analysed the empirical literature on the benefits of access to higher education for refugees. It shows that there are considerable direct benefits for refugee youth themselves, and also clear advantages for the host countries’ economies and social development, to which refugees contribute. Access to higher education enhances their motivation to succeed in pre-university education. It offers identity and social position, and access to skills development and economic opportunities, including through entrepreneurship, and therefore greatly enhances their social and economic integration and life chances.

This Policy Paper presents inclusive policies  and good practices from these countries and their HEIs, organized by type of obstacle to access. It concludes by presenting 15 recommendations on how host countries can support refugees’ access to their national systems, arguing strongly for an ‘equality of opportunity approach’ in terms of national policies, and also for caring measures at the level of HEIs. The 15 recommendations are made mainly for national policy-makers and planners, but also for HEIs, who share a combined responsibility and whose actions can mutually reinforce each other.

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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.

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