Promised extra nursing places offered in A-level clearing

Extra nursing training places promised by the government have been made available for students receiving their A-level results today.

Extra nursing training places promised by the government have been made available for students receiving their A-level results today.

Picture: Press Association

Universities report being told only this week that they will have additional capacity on their nursing degree courses, which begin within weeks.

More than 50 universities have pre-registration nursing degree places available, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website, which manages the clearing system matching students to spaces.

UCAS report that 416,310 students have been accepted by UK universities and colleges so far – the figure for nursing is 21,490.

Middlesex University has ten places available on its undergraduate child nursing degree course and a further 15-20 places on its adult nursing course – including about five on its postgraduate adult nursing degree.

Head of recruitment Caroline Sargisson said the university found out only this week that their nursing degree places were to increase by 4.6% as a result of last week’s government announcement that there would be an extra 10,000 training places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

‘We have to work closely with our placement providers to make sure we don’t swamp them with students,’ she said.

Ms Sargisson said the university has a close partnership with its NHS trust, which offers flexibility in decisions about when students go on placements.

‘The trust are keen to work with us in looking to expand [the number of nurses],’ she said.

Ms Sargisson said that, while application numbers had mirrored the national trend by falling, the quality of nursing applicants remains high.

Graduate tax

The university has also taken steps to inform students about the loss of the nursing bursary and present loans as a ‘graduate tax’ rather than debt, she said.

‘The people we have recruited have been fantastic. We have not had any problem with a drop in the quality of applications,’ Ms Sargisson said.

‘[But] every year it’s difficult to recruit to nursing because of the complexity of the process – the testing and interviews.’

Coventry University has received clarification from Health Education England that it could spread its 4.6% increase in places across its health training courses.

The university’s executive dean of the faculty of health and life sciences Guy Daly said that about 80-90% of its courses were filled before clearing opened.

However, he said additional places on its 700 existing health undergraduate pre-registration courses allows the university to offer January and February intakes for mental health nursing, and children and young people’s nursing courses.

‘This is the first time ever we have done this for children and young people’s nursing, and the first time in five years for mental health nursing,’ he said.

Professor Daly added: ‘We see the new announcement as providing greater flexibility than we have had in the past, when we could only recruit to this number. If we went over, we faced being fined.’

The university has spoken to its clinical placement providers and is confident it can take on the additional students.

Like Middlesex University, Coventry has noticed a fall of around 25% in applications, but Professor Daly said that, while there used to be ten applicants for each place, there are now about seven or eight.


Sheffield Hallam University increased its nursing places this year – ahead of the government announcement – following discussion over workforce needs with its placement providers.

The university’s deputy dean in the faculty of health and wellbeing Helen Best said the university ‘took a risk’ by increasing its adult nursing places by 40 to about 440 and its nursing (child) degree places by 17 to about 80. The number of midwifery places has also been increased.

She said the government plans mean that it may be easier for the placements to be funded, particularly in smaller independent sector settings.

‘We have all fields of nursing in clearing, but we are largely using [the process] to try to make offers for March intake. There are some for September,’ Ms Best said.

Overall, the number of students accepted on university and college courses on A-level results day is down 2% compared with the number in 2016, but is the second highest number recorded.

UCAS attribute the decrease to a fall in acceptances from older students and to fewer students from the EU.

For nursing, the number of students from the EU, excluding the UK, who secured places on results day is down 14%, from 430 in 2016 to 370 this year.


The RCN has called for transparency in how the government monitors progress towards recruiting an extra 10,000 healthcare professionals in the next five years.

General secretary Janet Davies said: ‘Even with the possibility of further students being placed in the coming weeks, these low numbers are filling a leaking bucket. More people are leaving the profession than joining it.

‘There are simply not enough nurses being trained to plug the 40,000 vacancies in England left by years of poor workforce planning – the situation is unsustainable.

‘The government has promised 10,000 more healthcare professionals in the next five years, but we need transparency over how it intends to monitor its progress.  

‘We are calling on the government to publish the actual number of nursing students starting this autumn by the end of this year.’

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