Private college GSM London goes bust and will stop teaching

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News family and education correspondent

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
GSM London was one of a wave of private providers turning higher education into more of a marketplace

GSM London, one of the biggest private higher education providers in England, has gone into administration - and will stop teaching students in September.

The college says it has not been able to "recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students to generate enough revenue to be sustainable".

It teaches about 3,500 students - with degree courses validated by the University of Plymouth.

The college, based in Greenwich and Greenford, says 247 jobs are at risk.

Private providers

The for-profit college is owned by a private equity company and focused on business courses.

It is one of a wave of private providers encouraged to promote more of a market in higher education.

Its collapse is likely to raise questions about the success of such a commercialisation of the sector.

It was not a university - and not regulated by the higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OFS).

But a spokesman for the OFS said its "overarching priority is to ensure that students are able to complete their studies".

"We understand that some students who are nearing the end of their studies will be able to stay at GSM but it is likely that most will need to transfer to another higher education provider."

The OFS says in 2017-18 the college had 5,440 students, with the latest figures showing 3,500.

A statement from GSM London says that "discussions are under way with other higher education providers to identify alternative courses for our students and we will be supporting them in the application process".


The college says it could not remain financially viable and had been unable to find a buyer to ensure its "longer-term future".

It says it will teach until September - which for some courses will be the end of term - ahead of an "orderly wind-down and closure of the college".

The UCU lecturers' union blamed the "marketisation of education" and warned of "funding a free for all among private providers".

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We want a broad, sustainable market in higher education, which offers students flexibility and a wide range of high-quality choices for where and what they study.

"Whilst the vast majority of institutions are in good financial health, the Department for Education and the Office for Students have been clear that neither will bail out failing providers."