AN EXTREMELY controversial for-profit college has gone bust leaving staff and students stranded, prompting unions to demand that the privatisation of education be stopped and all private companies be kicked out of education.
GSM London, one of the largest for-profit private providers of higher education in England has gone into administration, leaving students stranded on unfinished courses and staff facing redundancy. GSM was one of the colleges that featured in a recent Panorama expose about fraudulent applications for student loan money. GSM is ultimately owned by the private equity firm Sovereign Capital and awarded degrees validated by the University of Plymouth.
The university’s bankruptcy means all of its 274 staff are at risk of being sacked. The students meanwhile are being left high and dry.
One such student, Olaide Olasupo received an unexpected email that he was not to go to his classes at GSM London because the college would be going into administration. The business student had one project left to submit before completing his degree programme when the news came that GSM London would stop teaching.
Now he is searching for another institution that will recognise his coursework and allow him to complete his studies. ‘This was four years of my life. I gave up my business to study and was really looking forward to finishing,’ he said. ‘It’s so depressing. I don’t know where I’m going. Now I’ll have to pay more. I didn’t sleep well last night.’
GSM’s collapse is a blow to Tory government attempts to open up the higher education sector to private providers as part of its marketisation of the sector.
A government White Paper from May 2016 set out a vision for a ‘more market-based approach’ to boost ‘competition and choice’ in UK higher education. The privatisation ‘experiment’ has failed!
The collapse of GSM leaves just three for-profit universities in the UK: the University of Law, BPP University and Arden University. GSM said that ‘highly challenging market conditions’ were to blame for its collapse, adding that the college ‘has not been able to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students to generate enough revenue to be sustainable’.
University and College Union (UCU) 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.’
It has become clear that opening up universities to privatisation has been nothing short of a disaster. Universities were completely reliant on government funding. The marketisation of education first began under Tony Blair’s New Labour government with the introduction of tuition fees in 1997. Since then, government funding has been drastically cut, forcing universities to rely on home students and international students fees to fund them.
Nearly one in four universities in England were in deficit last year. Among those with large deficits were Bradford with £12.1 million and London Metropolitan at £9.5 million. Even Cambridge has said that it will run up a deficit of £30 million.
The Tory government took the cap off the amount of students that any one university can recruit. Before the cap was removed, universities were bailed out if they got into financial difficulties, now the government lets universities go to the wall.
Now it’s a case of cramming as many students in as possible, with lectures of over 300 students. Each and every student is worth £9,250 a year to the university, and universities are desperate for money.
Last year there were three universities on the brink of bankruptcy. There is only one solution. All university fees must be abolished. Grants must be restored to each and every student. Private companies must be driven out of education and universities funded through taxation.
This means a nationwide struggle, where the entire strength of the working class is mobilised to bring this government down to bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies and expropriate the bosses and bankers!