Orphanos v Queen Mary College: HL 1985

The complainant, a Cypriot, argued that the respondent college’s practice, determined by government policy, of charging higher fees to ‘overseas’ students than to ‘home’ students indirectly discriminated against him on the ground of his race. ‘Overseas’ students were defined as those who had not been resident in the UK or the EEC for the three years immediately preceding the commencement of their course. The respondent conceded that a considerably smaller proportion of persons of Cypriot, non-British or non-EEC nationality than of British or EEC nationality could comply with the condition regarding residence so as to qualify for the lower fees.
Held: The respondent had unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff, but the court dismissed his claim on other grounds.
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton said: ‘The admission [by the respondent] seems to be made on the footing that Mr. Orphanos belongs to three racial groups (Cypriot, non-British, and non-E.E.C.) and that it makes no difference which of these groups is chosen for the comparison required by section 1(1)(b )(i). I agree that Mr. Orphanos belongs to each of these groups, and that each is a ‘racial group’ as defined by section 3(1) as extended by section 3(2). But I do not agree that it makes no difference which of these groups is used for the comparison under section 1(1)(b )(i). The comparison must be between the case of a person of the same racial group as Mr. Orphanos and the case of a person not of that racial group, but it must be such that ‘the relevant circumstances in the one case are the same, or not materially different, in the other’: see section 3(4). The ‘relevant circumstances’ in the present case are, in my view, that Mr. Orphanos wished to be admitted as a pupil at the college, so the comparison must be between persons of the same racial group as him who wish to be admitted to the college, and persons not of that racial group who so wish. Consider first the two largest groups – namely persons of non-British and non-E.E.C. nationality (omitting the reference to national origins brevitatis causa.) I have no doubt that the proportion of persons of non-British and non-E.E.C. nationality who wish to attend the college and who can comply with the requirement of having ordinarily resided in the E.E.C. area for three years immediately before 1 September 1982 is substantially smaller than the proportion of persons not of that group (i.e., persons who were British or E.E.C. nationals) who wish to attend the college and who can comply with it. That seems obvious and causes no difficulty. But consider now the group consisting of persons of Cypriot (or Greek Cypriot) nationality and compare it with the group consisting of persons not of Cypriot (or Greek Cypriot) nationality, i.e., consisting of all persons (except Cypriots) of every nationality from Chinese to Peruvian inclusive. If the comparison is between persons of those groups who wish to be admitted to the college as pupils I do not see how any sensible comparison can be made because it would be impracticable to ascertain the numbers of persons so wishing.’
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton
[1985] AC 761
Race Relations Act 1976
England and Wales
Cited by:
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E complained that his exclusion from admission to the school had been racially discriminatory. The school applied an Orthodox Jewish religious test which did not count him as Jewish because of his family history.
Held: The school’s appeal . .
CitedLondon Underground Ltd v Edwards EAT 14-Feb-1995
The Tribunal considered the difficulties arising where one party was not represented, but where the case gave rise to difficult questions of law. In this case the claimant alleged sex discrimination in the context of rostering arrangements making . .

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Updated: 05 May 2021; Ref: scu.384325