The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the ‘BC HRT’) (reversing the decisions of both the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal) that the Board of Education of School District No. 44 (North Vancouver) (the ‘School District’), by closing a facility that provided intensive services and individualised assistance to students with severe learning disabilities, had denied a child with severe dyslexia access to a service customarily available to the public, being education, contrary to the British Columbia Human Rights Code (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210, s. 8). Although the School District was subject to severe funding constraints, it was found to have not acted with a bona fide and reasonable justification, which could have provided a defence to the Human Rights Code violation.

In these three related decisions, the Kansas Supreme Court held that legislative changes to K-12 school funding, which reduced state-aid payments augmenting funds generated through property taxation in school districts with lower property values, violated the Kansas constitution. Article 6 of the Kansas constitution has previously been interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court to require equity and adequacy in the provision of financing for education. The Kansas Supreme Court found that the legislative changes violated the equity requirement because school districts did not have reasonably equal access to substantially equal educational opportunity through similar tax efforts.

Key resource

International human rights law requires States to provide equal access to higher education without discrimination and to ensure the progressive realization of the right to free higher education. Although France outperforms many countries at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on many metrics regarding higher education, there remains significant problems, particularly ensuring equal access for students based on their place of origin. The opportunities students have, are not equal across all regions of France. Part of this inequality can be attributed to the socio-economic status of individual students. However, regional differences operate independently, and can exacerbate socio-economic inequalities, in determining participation in higher education. 

This policy brief shows that the unequal distribution of higher education institutions across the country results in students having to move across regions to access higher education, thus incurring costs (mainly housing and transportation), which are harder to meet for those who do decide to move, due to regional differences in standards of living. Coupled with the stagnation of budget allocation to higher education and the general rise in tuition fees, these indirect costs of education constitute a significant barrier to the enjoyment of the right to free higher education on a non-discriminatory basis.

Key resource

This report shows how a student’s place of origin within France, that is, the region in which they live prior to the beginning of their studies, coupled with their socio-economic background can mean that the cost of education, which is heavily influenced by the structure of the French higher education system, poses a significant barrier to their enjoyment of the right to higher education.