A CAMPAIGN has been launched to 'save' Greenock's two college campuses as student numbers plummet.

Lecturer Mark Gillan, the EIS teaching union representative at West College Scotland in the town, says that since the merger of James Watt with Reid Kerr and Clydebank in 2013 there has been a huge reduction in the number of students enrolling to study at both Finnart Street and the Waterfront.

On behalf of concerned staff, Mr Gillan, Greenock EIS further education lecturers association depute branch secretary, has launched 'Save Our Greenock College Provision' in partnership with Unison.

The unions want the Greenock buildings protected, modernised and the intake of students substantially increased.

Mr Gillan, who is a lecturer in Creative Industrial Industries at Finnart Street, said: "The continued drop in academic staff levels, recent management announcements of continued voluntary redundancies, reduction in courses and movement of services to Paisley has created far too much negativity.

"Enough is enough, the negativity must end and a new age of positive community involvement with saving our local college provision has commenced.

"The positivity is placed upon a campaign to save our current buildings, have them modernised and to focus upon filling Finnart Street Campus and the Waterfront Campus with students once again."

Mr Gillan says assurances must be given about the future of the college after figures he obtained from senior management revealed a dramatic 58 per cent fall in the number of students enrolling in Greenock during the first four years of the merger.

He said: "At the time of the merger in 2013/14, Greenock had 11,264 total student enrolments, Paisley had 12,834 and Clydebank had 7,160.

"In Greenock, that reduced to only 4,724 in 2016/17.

"Greenock is now the smallest campus, with a considerable reduction during a short time period of merger.

"Paisley has increased the amount of total enrolments and has benefited from the merger during the first four years.

"We can see the difference, we don’t really need these figures to confirm but it is clearly illustrated and reinforces our knowledge of how Greenock has been damaged with such negative cuts by management."

Mr Gillan says there has been a 154 per cent increase in the number of people from Inverclyde travelling to the Paisley campus.

He also claims that there has been a large reduction in staff numbers.

Mr Gillan said: "The drain of talent and expertise with no tangible training has contributed to low morale among staff based in Greenock."

Union figures are concerned that college bosses want to eventually close both campuses in the town, sell them off and replace them with a much smaller facility on land behind The Beacon Arts Centre at the Waterfront.

He said: "The horrendous figures confirm what we have all been seeing with our eyes, the disgraceful downsizing to shoehorn us into a minuscule new build on a small plot at the Waterfront behind The Beacon with hardly any parking, as opposed to the excellent campuses we currently enjoy.

"We have witnessed a large increase in aggrieved students who are forced to travel elsewhere to study or quite often completely drop away from education due to the trimming of the Greenock FE services.

"Students want to attend college locally.

"We are asking for the community to support our fight to save and restore our local college provision.

"We have plenty of positive ideas and initiatives to take forward to reinstate the historic vibrant presence of our further education facility in Greenock.

"We must all act now and get behind the campaign.

"We've set up a 'Save Our Greenock College Provision' Facebook page which is supported by over 1,000 people."

Mr Gillan has tabled 14 demands, including a call for an independent review to explore the upgrading and long-term development of campuses.

In response to Mr Gillan's claims, West College Scotland released a statement reassuring staff and students that they are committed to Greenock.

It said: "The college recognises that staff across all our campuses are dedicated to providing the best learning experience for our communities.

"The college is totally committed to the provision of high quality education in Inverclyde, and our ambitions for campus development have not changed.

"At a time when we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of students for the 2018-19 session, we are surprised and disappointed that a statement of this nature has been issued without discussion with college management.

"We will continue to engage with staff on any positive suggestions for improving the student experience and the future development of our college."