A Harrow councillor has launched a petition against the privatisation of higher education following the collapse of a large for-profit London college.

Cllr Adam Swersky, responsible for finance at Harrow Council, wants to see “stable, accountable and public” institutions throughout the UK.

It comes after GSM London, a private higher education provider which has campuses in Greenford and Greenwich, announced it will be closing its doors in September.

Cllr Swersky called on the Government to end what he sees as a “privatisation agenda” that he believes is letting down thousands of students and staff.

He said: “Britain’s higher education sector is the envy of the world. But by giving thumbs up to private finance corporations to take over, the government is gambling with the sector’s reputation and students’ futures.”

He said the Government should take responsibility for GSM’s plight and that its “reckless deregulation” of the industry could leave others facing uncertainties.

GSM announced last week that it will be unable to continue after failing to secure a sufficient number of students and facing “highly challenging market conditions”.

In a statement, it said: “Our students will be supported as far as possible while efforts are made to provide them with informed options for where they may be able to continue their studies beyond the end of the current teaching semester.

“Discussions are already underway with other higher education providers to identify options, and information, advice and guidance will be provided to students as soon as the details have been finalised.”

It added that all roles at GSM are at risk of redundancy, which would potentially affect 274 jobs.

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

Its 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.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said it will be working closely with relevant bodies to ensure that affected students are given the necessary support going forward.

It added it carries out “robust checks” on the financial sustainability – as well as the management and governance – of private higher education providers.

A DfE spokesperson 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.

“The vast majority of institutions are in good financial health; however we cannot rule out provider failure in a competitive market which enables choice.

“Both the Department for Education and the Office for Students have been clear that neither will bail out failing providers.”

Visit https://bit.ly/31lFWfD to view Cllr Swersky’s petition.