Two students launched a High Court challenge yesterday against university tuition fee increases.
Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice King, sitting at the High Court in London, are being asked to grant a judicial review against Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is responsible for higher education.
The two judges were told the increases would disproportionately affect the less well-off, the disabled and members of minority ethnic groups.
Helen Mountfield QC argued that Business Secretary Vince Cable had failed when fixing the new fees to comply with his statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity in the field of access to education.
Ms Mountfield is representing two 17-year-old students, Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, who want to go to university and are asking the High Court in London to quash regulations adopted by Mr Cable in December 2010.
The regulations increased the cap on fees from £3,290 per annum to £9,000 per annum with effect from September 1 next year.
Ms Mountfield said it was an increase by “a factor of almost three” and added: “Tuition fees are so high relative to average family earnings, and the burden of debt prospective students must confront is so great, that these fees amount to a barrier to effective access to the higher educational institutions which exist in this country.”
They disproportionately affected the more deprived socio-economic groups, she said.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is resisting the challenge, arguing that the changes are not unlawful.