MORE than 1,200 students brought part of Bury town centre to a standstill yesterday during a protest march against education cuts and the rise in tuition fees.

The walkout, organised by the Holy Cross and Bury College Against Cuts Action Group, climaxed with a noisy demonstration outside Bury Town Hall as hundreds of students waved placards and shouted slogans.

Police say there were no arrests and the demonstration passed off peacefully, although some missiles, including a bottle of water and an umbrella, were hurled from the crowd.

Holy Cross and Bury College students united to take part in the rally, although they were warned their non-attendance would be classed as “unauthorised absence”.

They gathered in Market Street and the march set off at 11.15am. The procession led on to a section of Angouleme Way, part of which was closed to traffic, and then on to Knowsley Street, outside Bury Town Hall, which was also shut to vehicles.

During the protest, students waved their makeshift placards and shouted a string of slogans including “No ifs no buts, no education cuts” and “Cut backs, fight back!”

Bury College student Samir Hinks, aged 18, who led the march with a loud hailer, said: “We are protesting about education cuts and the rise in tuition fees. What is happening is a clear attack on education and will lead to a two-tier education system.”

Defending the walkout, added: “This is one day of education lost to try to save a whole generation of students.”

Fellow student Liam Donnelly, aged 18, who helped carry a “Bury College Against Cuts” banner, said: “We are fighting against these cuts and for the future of education.”

Another protester, Daniel Chadwick, aged 17, said: “The poor get help and the rich can afford it. But there’s a silent majority in the middle that most of us are part of who can’t afford it and it’s those who will be most affected.”

Holy Cross student Oliver Heron, aged 17, said the turnout was good, despite the threat of their involvement being deemed as an unauthorised absence.

“I think there was an attempt to scare us off from marching,” he said. “But the number taking part is better than we’d hoped for.”

Police had a visible presence at the demonstration, but no incidents were reported.

After protesting for more than an hour outside Bury Town Hall, which was closed to the public for the day, the students made their way back to Bury College before dispersing at about 12.50pm.

In a statement issued ahead of the protest, Bury College said it had organised a series of lunchtime sessions with advice and guidance on funding and finance related to university.

It added: “Whilst the college recognises students’ right to protest about university fees, we have a duty of care and, therefore, cannot support this rally.

“Bury College will be open as normal on this day and expects all students to attend as usual.”

Government plans could mean students having to pay as much as £9,000 per year in fees from 2012