YORK College students were thrown off campus as they tried to gather support for their anti-war protest, sparking a row between college management and staff.

According to student Oli Wilson, 19, the 20-strong group was told to leave the Tadcaster Road site yesterday morning because they were "trespassing".

One college lecturer, who did not want to be named, said the decision was "outrageous" and he offered the students advice about their legal position.

The lecturer said: "They were making a valid protest and they have been told that they must be in lessons or off campus. By that logic the campus would be empty most of the time. It is outrageous, we (lecturers) fully support the students, they have every right to protest and it's good that they exercise that right."

Mr Wilson said: "We came to college with a banner encouraging students to walk out.

"Very quickly, within 20 minutes, a spokesperson from the college asked us to leave because we were trespassing.

"Because we were not attending lessons that made us not students for the day apparently, despite any evidence that we are still students.

"We were going into lessons asking students to join us, one teacher was sympathetic, but most left it up to the pupils to make their own decision."

Graeme Murdoch, deputy principal at the college, said the college was taking a neutral stance to the war in Iraq, and would not allow protests to take place on campus.

He said: "York College can't support or condemn current action in Iraq. However it does recognise that its staff and students may have particular views that they wish to express as individuals away from the college.

"They are only students if they are in scheduled classes."