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FErret

Lessons don't pay the bills, say students

New College Nottingham has had to deal with a strike, but not from staff. This time it was about 150 students who walked out. It's easy to joke about student strikes: "If they withdraw their labour, who will notice?" etc. And the students perhaps aren't helping to dispel such an image given that the walkout is planned over proposals to increase the college day by 45 minutes. Lazy students, eh?

Well, maybe. Principal Amarjit Basi says that no one is likely to have a 9am to 5pm schedule for more than two days a week. But students' main concern is that a number of them signed up for the courses in the expectation that they could combine them with part-time jobs, which may now clash with college. With the loss of the education maintenance allowance, they can't afford that.

What this episode shows is how squeezed staff and students are on all fronts: colleges are having to work staff harder and pack the timetable to be more efficient, while students need more and more time to earn money to fund their courses. But it's a shame that students have so few options to protest: it is, as they say, their own time they're wasting.

Can this charming man make a difference?

Students from the Manchester College are backing a campaign by young people in Wythenshawe, south of the city, to get their own railway station, to help them travel for their studies. And now they've attracted a high-profile supporter: former guitarist for The Smiths, Johnny Marr.

The Smiths, of course, were known for their commitment to educational issues ("A boy in the bush is worth two in the handI think I can help you get through your exams," in the words of lead singer Morrissey), so let's hope Mr Marr's intervention wins the day.

Students may feel they are going nowhere fast, but these things take time. What difference does it make? Getting back to the old house from college will be quicker. And if it goes ahead, city councillors will be able to say, "You've got everything now." So please, please, please let them get what they want.

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