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 Covid 19 crisis has challenged all aspects of daily life. Ensuring the fundamental missions of higher education systems can continue is part of these challenges. The lives of students have changed, new issues have emerged and new practices have developed.
This document lists the international and regional instruments that refer to the right to higher education.
Since 2018, the Right to Education Initiative has partnered with the Human Rights Clinic of the Sciences Po Law School to monitor and advocate for equal access to higher education in France using RTE’s monitoring guide.
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.
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.
In this case, a resident of Uttar Pradesh state challenged a notification issued by the Karnataka government that permitted private medical colleges to charge higher fees to students who were not allocated 'government seats'. The Supreme Court of India held that the charging of a ‘capitation fee’ by the private educational institutions violated the right to education, as implied from the right to life and human dignity, and the right to equal protection of the law.