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Teenagers fail in fees challenge

Two teenagers who want to go to university have failed in their High Court bid to overturn regulations introducing the coalition Government's proposed increase in tuition fees.

Lawyers for 17-year-olds Callum Hurley, from Peterborough, and Katy Moore, from Brixton, south London, argued that allowing universities to charge students up to £9,000 a year was unlawful.

Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice King, sitting in London, ruled that Business Secretary Vince Cable had failed "fully to carry out" his public sector equality duties before implementing the regulations.

But the judges said it would "not be appropriate" to quash the regulations because there had been "very substantial compliance".

Katy is studying biology, chemistry, maths and history for her A-Levels at Lambeth Academy. She hopes to become a research scientist, exploring cells, diseases, new treatments and cures as a career. Callum, from Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, attends Peterborough Regional College, where he is studying for a level 3 BTec in web development and wants to go to university to study IT.

It was argued on behalf of the teenagers that the fees increases would erect "a barrier" to higher education and threatened to widen the already large gap between rich and poor.

The judges were told that the case raised important equality issues, and the less well-off, the disabled and members of black minority ethnic groups would be particularly hit.

Tessa Gregory, of Public Interest Lawyers, which represented the teenagers, said they were "disappointed" that the court chose not to quash the regulations but pleased with the court's criticism of the Government's failure over its equality duties.

Ms Gregory said: "In its ruling the court made a clear declaration that the Government, when it passed the regulations increasing tuition fees, failed to comply with its public sector equality duties. It found the Government's analysis on equality issues was inadequate. That the court made this finding in relation to such a key plank of the Government's higher education policy cannot but reflect badly on these rushed reforms."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills welcomed the court's decision, saying: "We are pleased the court rejected outright the suggestion that our student finance reforms breach students' human rights. The court recognised the consultation and analysis we carried out."