Students at the Capital’s new “super college” have criticised the decision to move key courses to a campus 13 miles away.
Edinburgh College is to relocate courses in construction and joinery from its Midlothian campus in Dalkeith to its Forthview campus in Granton.
The move, part of college plans to establish centres of excellence, will be rolled out in the next academic year.
However, the Edinburgh College Association, which represents students, fears the relocation will deter people in Midlothian from signing up for the course.
The organisation also claims staff and students were not consulted on the plans, which will affect 262 students.
Vice-president Kelly Parry said: “Quite a lot of people have said they will not be applying for construction courses next year.
“Our fears are that students will be having a two-hour journey – that’s ten hours a week on a bus, and if they don’t get back until really late that’s going to affect anyone who has a part-time job. It’s going to hit the poorest students.
“My concern is if this happens, what’s going to happen next – what courses could be moved in the future?”
College chiefs have offered an olive branch by introducing a free bus to take students between the campuses and intend to set up a centre of excellence in engineering at the Midlothian campus as a “trade-off”.
But Ms Parry said: “Midlothian Council have huge construction plans for the next ten years and part of these plans was a pledge to the Scottish Government to employ local people.
“Where are we going to find these local people with skills in construction if the courses moves to Granton? It’s good that the college is building a centre of excellence in engineering, but it’s a completely different skillset.”
Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie said moving the facility to Granton would cause “considerable disruption” to apprentices and potentially deter further students applying from Mid and East Lothian because of the “difficult transport arrangements”.
However, college vice-principal Ray McCowan said the changes would have a minimal impact on students and added that plans to move the courses were announced in 2011.
He said: “In terms of consultation, it’s been well known that this is what we were going to do. There was no formal consultation process, but students and staff were already aware of the plans and had given their feedback.
“Of the 262 students studying through construction courses, 66 of them live in Edinburgh and are nearer to Granton. Of the students who live in Mid and East Lothian, 50 per cent have direct bus access to Granton.”
Responding to claims the move would lead to staff cuts, he said: “That is absolutely not the case.
“We want to build single centres of excellence and we will be building an engineering centre in Midlothian as a trade-off.”
SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
THE creation of the multi-million pound Edinburgh College – formed by the merger of Stevenson, Jewel and Esk and Telford colleges – has been dogged with controversy.
In November 2011, Education Minister Mike Russell insisted he did not force Telford College into the merger after the college made the surprise announcement that it would enter talks on the change – just seven months after it had ruled itself out.
The following March, it emerged bosses were looking for more than 200 job cuts as part of the plans. Shadow minister for learning and skills Neil Findlay said staff at the colleges had told him morale was at ‘rock bottom’.
In August, the EIS negotiating committee for the three colleges highlighted “concerns” over delays to the interview process for the new principal, as well as the salary for the post not being made public.