STUDENT nurses at University College Chester have launched a campaign after being refused the chance to pick up their diplomas as soon as they qualify.
Students who started their nursing diploma courses in 2002 this week launched a revolt after being told their March 2005 graduation date was put back to 2006.
News of the change - broke to them this week by college nursing dean Dorothy Marriss - angered the students who are currently on work placements at hospitals across Cheshire as part of their nursing diploma studies.
Yesterday, college chiefs said there had been a misunderstanding and the student nurses would receive their degrees at the November 2005 ceremony.
But this is still six months after the end of their course, leaving the students wondering why nurses who completed their diploma this February were allowed to receive their degrees in March.
The diploma students - who end their course as fully-qualified staff nurses - have written to college principal Timothy Wheeler and started a petition which has so far attracted 150 signatures.
University College Chester was awarded a £5m contract to train students for 12 NHS trusts four years ago - the contract will be up for renewal next year.
The School of Nursing and Midwifery is a major provider of education and training of nurses for Cheshire and Wirral.
Each year, depending upon the needs of the 12 NHS trusts, it offers about 350 places (three intakes - February, June and October) in the specialities of adult, child, learning disability and mental health nursing. The students are expected to live on a monthly £500 bursary.
They are identified with a particular trust on selection and gain experience at hospitals in Chester (Countess of Chester), Wirral (Arrowe Park), Leighton (Mid Cheshire), Macclesfield (East Cheshire) and Warrington and Halton (North Cheshire).
As a result, while some of the academic components of the nursing programme will be based at the college, the majority take place on the trust site.
In their letter to Professor Wheeler, the February 2002 intake says: 'We would point out that we have made a huge personal sacrifice to study and work 37.5 hours per week including shift work, our reward being our ceremony, in addition to our ability to practice nursing.
'We officially finish our course on February 4, 2005, allowing five weeks for the administrative paperwork to be completed in time for us to graduate in March as has happened this year to the corresponding cohorts.'
The February 2002 intake added: 'Some nurses, upon qualification, will be taking posts abroad, others in different areas of the country and to suggest we come back after qualification is not only impractical, but for some impossible.'
The student nurses' campaign is backed by Steven Hargreaves, president of the Chester Student Union.
He said: 'The union is backing the nurses. We are fully supportive. People want to be rewarded for their efforts at the end of the day.'
Yesterday, college bosses said there had been a misunderstanding and it was always intended for the February 2002 cohort to pick up their diplomas at Chester Cathedral in November 2005.
Explaining the reasons for the six month delay, college chiefs said the exam papers would not be ratified until May 2005 - ruling them out of any March 2005 graduation ceremony.
However, they did not comment on why nursing diploma students who completed their studies this February attended the college's graduation ceremony last month.