GSM London rapped by QAA over business course

Concerns about course at for-profit GSM, one of country's biggest private colleges, found to be 'justified'

December 17, 2015
The Quality Assurance Agency reviews UK higher education institutions
The Quality Assurance Agency reviews UK higher education institutions

The UK’s quality watchdog has upheld a “concerns” complaint about a course offered by a for-profit college that is one of the country’s largest private providers.

The Quality Assurance Agency investigated GSM London under its Concerns Scheme, finding that concerns about the “promotion and operation” of a business management course were justified.

GSM, formerly known as Greenwich School of Management, is owned by private equity firm Sovereign Capital.

The college, which offers degrees awarded by Plymouth University, has undergone rapid growth since the government’s policy to expand private provision was begun by former universities minister David Willetts in 2010.

Students at GSM received £77 million in fee and maintenance funding via the public-backed Student Loans Company in 2013-14, the second highest level of any private provider.

The QAA’s report, published today, says the concerns were received by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in May 2015.

The concerns related to the BSc business management (travel and tourism pathway) and centred on “procedures for the management of public information”, management of GSM’s relationship with Plymouth and “procedures for record-keeping”. The concerns were “found to be justified”, the report says.

“The prospectus for entry in 2014 presented the title of the programme as BSc Business Management with Travel and Tourism, an error which was carried through to the prospectus for entry in 2015,” says the QAA.

It adds: “The college acknowledged that at some point during 2013 the title of the BSc Business Management (Travel and Tourism Pathway) had been changed on its course record database and that the error had remained undetected until January 2015.”

In addition, a number of “changes to module titles and learning outcomes have not been approved by the university”, the report says.

The QAA adds: “Promotional material available during 2013 and 2014 included a programme title which had not been approved by the college's awarding body [Plymouth].

“The approved structure and content of the Travel and Tourism Pathway programme is not presented accurately or consistently in information provided to prospective and current students, such as on the website and in programme and module guides.

“Module titles and learning outcomes presented in information available to students are not those approved by the awarding body.”

In conclusion, the QAA report says that although the college “has itself identified the error in the title of the BSc Business Management (Travel and Tourism Pathway) in its record system, it has not acted expeditiously to identify and remedy the consequences”.

Debi Hayes, acting provost at GSM London, said: “We fully accept the QAA’s findings and are already taking steps to address the points raised. Indeed, as the QAA report makes clear, our current leadership team have already been taking action to address the points raised.

“We are assured that the quality of the education we offer and the outcomes that our students enjoy have not been affected. Nonetheless, we have a policy of continuous improvement and will take action wherever necessary to ensure that everything we do upholds the highest possible standards.”

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