Students shun nursing courses for computing degrees

New data show ‘deeply concerning’ drop in numbers throughout the UK, while applications for computing courses have surged by 9%
Photo of person using laptop, illustrating story about nursing degree applications falling

New data show ‘deeply concerning’ drop in numbers throughout the UK, while applications for computing courses have surged by 9%

Picture: iStock

Applications to study nursing degrees in the UK have dropped since last year as thousands of students turn to computing and engineering courses.

Just weeks after the Westminster government and health leaders pledged to train tens of thousands more nurses a year to plug chronic workforce gaps in the NHS in England, latest data show interest in nursing courses has dropped for a second consecutive year, with 8,230 fewer applications.

Figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) on 13 July show applications to study nursing across the UK, submitted by 30 June 2023, have fallen from 52,150 at the same point in 2022 to 43,920 in 2023 – a 16% drop.

‘Urgent action needed now’ to avoid risk to patients

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said the figures painted a troubling picture and would make the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan even harder to achieve.

‘It is deeply concerning to see the number of people applying to study nursing falling again – a clear result of the way the profession has been treated by those in power,’ she added.

‘Urgent action is needed now, or university places will go unfulfilled, vacant posts will remain empty and patient care will continue to be at risk.’

Nursing course applications drop in every UK country

Across the four UK nations, Scotland had the biggest drop in applications to nursing courses this year with a 19% plummet to 6,450, compared with 7,930 in 2022 and 9,010 in 2021.

In England applications dropped by 15.7% from 43,170 to 36,400, in Wales by almost 21% from 4,200 to 3,330 and by 17% in Northern Ireland from 2,910 to 2,410.

International applications to UK nursing courses also dropped by 6% from 4,290 in 2022 to 4,020 in 2023.

‘Students increasingly inspired to study computing’

The UCAS figures also showed a 9% surge in applications for computing courses, with almost 200,000 people applying to computing degrees across the UK.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said: ‘We know that changes in the world around us translate into increased demand for certain courses, as we saw for economics post-2008, and for medicine and nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘These new figures suggest students are becoming increasingly inspired to study computing thanks to the rise of digital and AI.’

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