Patel v. United Kingdom (Application No 8844/80) European Commission of Human Rights (1982) 4 EHRR 256

9 December 1980

Right to education (Art 2, Protocol 1). Refusal of re-admission by university.

It is not incompatible with Article 2, Protocol 1 to restrict access to education facilities to those who have attained an academic level required to benefit from the courses offered.

The following cases are referred to in the decision.

1. Belgian Linguistic Case No 2 (1968), Series A, No 6; 1 EHRR 252.

Patel v University of Bradford Senate [1979] 1 WLR 1066, [1979] 2 All ER 582, CA: [1978] 1 WLR 1488, [1978] 3 All ER 841, ChD.


In 1972, the applicant, A UK citizen, was admitted to the University of Bradford to read the honors course in Computer Science for the degree of Bachelor of Technology. He failed his examinations at the end of the academic year as well as the resist in September 1973. A meeting of the undergraduate School of Studies in Mathematical Sciences recommended that the applicant should fail, in view also of his poor attendance at compulsory tutorials, and that he should be required to withdraw from the University. This recommendation was approved by various university authorities and the applicant notified accordingly. The applicant then applied to the Chairman of his Undergraduate School of Studies to be allowed to re-enter. He was advised to reapply through the centralized university clearance system. He was also advised, however, that he would not be re-admitted to the School of Mathematical Sciences until he could demonstrate a significant improvement in his mathematical abilities such as improved 'A' level results, failing which he should pursue a subject to which his abilities were more suited such as economics. There then ensued an acrimonious dispute between the applicant and the University concerning the applicant's protest against the University's refusal to re-admit him. This resulted in his being barred from the University premises. The applicant sought several court declarations as to the unlawfulness of the University's decisions, an earlier application for an order of certiorari being refused in July 1977 as being out of time. After substantial deliberation, the Chancery Division of the High Court held in May 1978 that the courts had no jurisdiction in the matter, such disputes being within the exclusive province of the Bradford University Visitors, i.e. the Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Crown. (Patel v University of Bradford Senate [1978] 1 WLR 1488). The Court of Appeal affirmed this decision in January 1979 ([1979] 1 WLR 1066), the House of Lords Appeal Committee considering the matter not fit for an oral hearing in July 1979.


The Commission noted that the English courts considered that the applicant's complaint fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bradford University Visitor, the Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Crown, whom the applicant had never approached. It would appear, therefore, that the applicant, in lodging his application with the Commission, has not complied with the requirements of Article 26 of the Convention concerning the exhaustion of domestic remedies. However, the Commission considers that it need not decide on this question as in any event the application must be rejected as manifestly ill-founded for the reasons set out below. The applicant's principal complaint is that he is denied the right to education ensured by Article 2 of Protocol No 1. He alleges that he has suffered discrimination because of his national origin in respect of this right, contrary to Article 14 of the Convention which ensures the enjoyment of Convention rights and freedoms without discrimination on any ground.

The commission refers to the interpretation by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment on the merits of Belgian Linguistic Case (No 2) ((1968) 1 EHRR 252) as regards Article 2 of Protocol No 1, that it is not an absolute right to all forms of education.

The negative formulation of the right indicates: that the Contracting Parties do not recognize such a right to education as would require them to establish at their own expense, or to subsidize, education of any particular type or at any particular level . . .

There never was, nor is now, therefore any question of requiring each State to establish . . . a system [of general and official education], but merely of guaranteeing to persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Contracting Parties the right, in principle, to avail themselves of the means of instruction existing at a given time.

The Convention lays down no specific obligations concerning the extent of those means and the manner of their organization or subsidization . . .

Although the first sentence of Article 2 of the Protocol consequently guarantees, in the first place, the right of access to educational institutions existing at a given time, that right may be regulated by the state. Regulation may vary in time and place.

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