My immediate reaction to Gordon Conway's comment in Don's Diary (THES, October ) that "employment of up to 15 hours a week ought not seriously to interfere with (undergraduates') studies" was that the decimal point between the 1 and the 5 must have been omitted.
Here we consider that a module (of which students do four per semester) represents 150 hours of student-committed time - a working week, including contact time and private study, of some 40 hours. To suggest that students can easily cope with an additional 15 hours of paid work is to impose an intolerable strain on their time for reflection and ability to absorb what they are being taught.
Of course, we all know that students have to work to replace or supplement non-existent or inadequate grants and loans. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that someone of Gordon Conway's status is apparently giving this state of affairs his official blessing rather than using the platform to tackle the issue of this Government's short-sightedness on student poverty. Higher education needs senior academics who take every opportunity publicly to fight for a more humane Government policy on behalf of exhausted students whose academic studies are all too often taking second place to low-paid and insecure employment at unsocial hours.
Janet Fraser University of Westminster