12% fall in nursing student numbers on university clearing courses
Fall in numbers of nursing students on UK university courses fuels criticism of NHS workforce plan and suggestion of cancelling tuition fee debts for nurses
The number of students accepted onto university nursing courses in the UK through clearing has dropped by 12%, new figures show.
Number of accepted nursing student clearing places falls in England, Scotland and Wales
Latest data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that the number of nursing students who secured a university place through the clearing process has dropped from 27,410 in 2022 to 24,140 in 2023.
The fall in acceptances was seen across three out of four countries in the UK. In Scotland, 3,300 students were awarded places on nursing courses, down 14% on the 3,850 accepted this time last year.
In England numbers were down 12% from 21,490 to 18,870, and in Wales down 13% from 1,210 to 1,050. Northern Ireland was the only country to see a 5% rise, increasing from 880 to 920.
Of the 24,140 people due to start nursing courses via clearing, the largest numbers were in the oldest and second youngest age categories, with 6,520 aged 18 and 5,930 aged 35 or older.
It comes after results day saw a 13% drop in the number of students accepted onto nursing courses from 21,140 in 2022 to 18,300 in 2023.
Labour peer suggests writing off tuition fee debt for NHS staff
The drop in the number of nursing students was discussed in the House of Lords on 19 September, with Labour’s Lord Philip Hunt suggesting the first ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan was ‘simply not sustainable’ in relation to nursing student numbers.
‘Is there not a case for looking at writing off debt run up by nursing students through tuition fees if they commit to working in the NHS for a length of time?’ he said.
The plan promised to create thousands more training places for nurses and nursing associates to recruit up to 190,000 more nurses by 2037.
Tory lord says figure reflects ‘expected rebalancing’ after pandemic
Responding to Lord Hunt, the Department of Health and Social Care parliamentary under secretary of state Lord Nicholas Markham said the drop in nursing applicants reflected an ‘expected rebalancing’ following ‘unprecedented demand’ for healthcare courses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the government was delivering on different routes to recruit nurses, including apprenticeships which were proving to be ‘very successful’, claiming all nursing applications are up 20% on pre-pandemic levels.
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