Students in South Yorkshire fear they may have to travel further to access education if their views are ignored as part of a major review.
The National Union of Students is concerned the review of colleges in the area will ignore the voice of learners and shut students out of the education system.
The Government is reviewing post-16 education in England amid growing financial pressures on institutions.
The Sheffield City Region region is among the first three areas to be scrutinised with a view to restructuring, along with those of Birmingham and Manchester.
Colleges within the scope of the review include Sheffield College, Northern College, Dearne Valley College, Doncaster College, Barnsley College and Rotherham College, along with sixth form facilities Longley Park and Thomas Rotherham Colleges.
The NUS fears that if colleges are merged, students may have to travel further , meaning they will be sacrificing more time and money to access education.
It is concerned about the lack of student consultation in the review process, which are being led by steering groups that include chairs of governors, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, further education and sixth form college commissioners and regional schools commissioners among their numbers.
Jodie Beck, Longley Park Sixth Form College student governor, said: “As a student governor I’m aware of what’s happening, but everyone else is in the dark. It’s left up to NUS to put on consultations so student bodies can be made aware.
“The biggest issue for me is choice. At that age you’re making one of the biggest decisions ever. It’s important you go to the right place and everyone has the right to choose, rather than having to go to the one college in their area. I’d want that for any student.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the students. Yes colleges are businesses now, but without the students there is no business.”
Amy Smith, the Sheffield College student union deputy president and student governor, said: “If I had to travel further to go to college I wouldn’t be able to work at my part-time job in the evenings. I’d only be able to do my Saturday shift and this would mean I couldn’t afford to get to college. Most employers won’t want you if you can only work one shift a week anyway.
“I think a lot of people in Sheffield just wouldn’t go to college if it was further away, especially if they’re carers or parents.
“I don’t think area reviews have been properly thought through. I know the government wants to save money, but if this process is rushed it’s going to cost more in the long run.”