KZN student fails in court bid to get into medical school

A KwaZulu-Natal student failed in her bid to be admitted to the University of KwaZulu-Natal medical school‚ but will not need to cover the legal costs.

According to a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday‚ Niekara Harrielall will not have to pay the state's costs in the constitutional matter.

Harrielall had approached the court after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the Pietermaritzburg High Court‚ dismissing Harrielall's review application against the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

The Constitutional Court agreed with the lower courts but differed regarding costs.

Harrielall was unsuccessful in her application in 2015 for admission to study medicine at UKZN. She then enrolled for a degree in the Bachelor of Medical Science programme‚ in the hope of improving her prospects for admission to the MBChB programme the following year.

In 2016‚ she applied again under UKZN's mature students' policy and her application was unsuccessful.

Harrielall launched a review application in the High Court to set aside the decision not to award her a place in the MBChB programme. UKZN opposed the application‚ stating that she had been considered alongside 160 other applicants under the mature students policy and that she was not among the top ten who were ultimately awarded places.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court agreed with the university and therefore dismissed the review application with costs. Harrielall applied to the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against that decision‚ which was also dismissed with costs.

The issue of costs was decided by Constitutional Court judges‚ who held that the Biowatch principle - which requires that an unsuccessful party in proceedings against the state be spared from paying the state's costs in constitutional matters - ought to have been applied.

"The university is a public institution through which the state discharges its constitutional obligation to make access to further education realisable. Accordingly‚ the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal should have applied the Biowatch principle and not awarded costs against the applicant‚" said the judgment.

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