GSM collapse: another for-profit education provider hits the rocks

A London-based private university has gone bust, leaving students and staff in the lurch.

Proletarian writers

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GSM London was one of a wave of private providers cashing in on the new market in higher education.

Proletarian writers

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One of the largest providers of private education in Britain has gone into administration. GSM London (formerly known as Greenwich School of Management) will stop teaching at the end of this academic year, leaving a total of 274 staff at risk of redundancy and several thousand students in the lurch mid-way through their studies. (Private college GSM London goes bust and will stop teaching by Sean Coughlan, BBC News, 31 July 2019)

GSM, which used to offer undergraduate and postgraduate business courses validated by the University of Plymouth at its campuses in Greenwich and Greenford, has told its students that all tuition, classes and exams will stop at the end of September.

The private university had lost more than 2,000 students over the past year. The higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS), said that in 2017-18 the college had 5,440 students, while the latest figures show just 3,500. The for-profit college said it had been unable to recruit and retain sufficient student numbers to remain afloat in what it described as “highly challenging market conditions”, and could no longer remain financially viable, being unable to find a buyer to ensure its longer-term future.

The demise of GSM, owned by Clipper Group Ltd, which in turn is owned by a fund belonging to Sovereign Capital (a private equity firm with a series of holdings in privatised education), is a blow to the government’s aim of the complete marketisation of higher education.

Three other for-profit education providers have also run into difficulty recently, and have been stripped of their access to student loans owing to concerns about poor quality degrees. The Bloomsbury Institute, run by a for-profit company and offering degrees in business, accountancy and law, had its registration application refused by the OfS last month, along with ABI College Limited and Waltham Forest College.

A higher education provider must register with the OfS in order to receive public funds, recruit international students, award degrees and call itself a university.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents higher education workers, has called on the government to reassess its approach.

The union’s acting general secretary, Paul Cottrell, said: “UCU has repeatedly highlighted concerns about the marketisation of education and the rapid increase in poorly regulated private providers.

“We hope that the government will now look again at the funding free-for-all among private providers.

“These private providers enjoy a competitive advantage in being under-regulated, but always put profit before education.”

Collectively, these failures of for-profit education should raise the question in the minds of all students and workers as to why the government is so committed to taking us down this path. The answer is, of course, to provide another avenue for profit-taking to the rich, who see the hundreds of thousands of people entering higher education every year as a potential goldmine.

What do communists say?

At our party’s eighth congress in September 2018, a motion on education demanded:

1. The expulsion of all private interests in education, including the abolition of academies and their return to the state school system, and the end of private provision of goods and services to educational institutions, with all staff brought in-house with realistic wages and full employment rights.

2. The abolition of private, religious and ethnically-divided schools.

3. The abolition of tuition fees in all institutions at all levels of education.

4. The provision of maintenance grants to cover living expenses of working-class students and their families, from creche and kindergarten through nursery, to school, undergraduate and higher-degree level.

5. Changes in the syllabuses and teaching methods should reflect the scientific, historical and artistic needs and interests of working-class people, including the teaching of materialist philosophy, science and working-class history and politics.”

Education should be a right for all workers, not a privilege for those who can afford to pay. It should be free, high quality, lifelong, and designed to meet the needs of working-class people, helping them to develop their abilities and enabling them to make a useful contribution to society while fulfilling their individual potential.

The CPGB-ML believes that the welfare of workers can only be safeguarded by a socialist system of economy, controlled and administered by the working people themselves.

Let the capitalists’ ministers try and show us otherwise; let them start by meeting this list of simple demands.