Student loans age victory

Student took legal action after being denied a loan while studying in Motherwell.
Student took legal action after being denied a loan while studying in Motherwell.

A Lanarkshire student has won a legal victory after being refused a student grant because she was too old.

The ruling has been welcomed by equality campaigners who said it should give hope to many people fighting against age discrimination.

Elizabeth Hunter challenged the policy of the Student Awards Agency not to give loans to people aged over 55. She applied for a loan after enrolling on a course in hospitality management at New College Lanarkshire in 2014.

Ms Hunter said the bursary she got instead of a loan didn’t cover the cost of travel from her home in Coatbridge to the college campus in Motherwell and she faced a cash shortfall of £300 every month.

The Court of Session ruled in favour of Ms Hunter, now 57. It said the loan policy was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because it unfairly restricted the benefits of finance for higher education to people under the age of 55.

Alastair Pringle, director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said: “This is a real victory against age discrimination. Restricting the availability of student loans to those under 55 will obviously impact on older people’s ability to study and increase their skills.

“At a time when many older Scots are struggling to secure well paid work, this judgment offers hope to many.

“We’re also pleased to see the court recognising that Scottish Ministers have a duty to appraise their policies regularly to make sure that they are up to date, relevant and justifiable.”