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Age profile of nursing students sparks fears for recruitment

Figures from UCAS obtained exclusively by Nursing Standard show almost a quarter of nursing students are over 30  

Nursing Standard exclusive

Almost one in four nursing students is 30 or older raising fresh concern about changes to course funding.

Data obtained by Nursing Standard from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show 24.1% of the students offered places on pre-registration programmes between 2011 and 2015 were aged 30 or over.

Of these students, almost nine out of ten (87.8%) were aged between 30 and 44.

Five years worth of data shows 60% of first-year nursing students have been aged 21 or older.

Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said she was concerned that replacing NHS bursaries with student loans could have a disproportionate impact on older students.

Its going to be that much harder in terms of attracting people. Many may have a first degree or a family, and are not necessarily going to want to get into a high level

Nursing Standard exclusive

Almost one in four nursing students is 30 or older – raising fresh concern about changes to course funding.

Data obtained by Nursing Standard from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show 24.1% of the students offered places on pre-registration programmes between 2011 and 2015 were aged 30 or over.

Of these students, almost nine out of ten (87.8%) were aged between 30 and 44.

Five years worth of data shows 60% of first-year nursing students have been aged 21 or older.

Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said she was concerned that replacing NHS bursaries with student loans could have a disproportionate impact on older students.

‘It’s going to be that much harder in terms of attracting people. Many may have a first degree or a family, and are not necessarily going to want to get into a high level of debt.

‘People from lower socio-economic groups may be in a better position to enter nursing when they are older, but loans are likely to put them off.’

Ms Amadi said the ageing workforce meant many nurses are now nearing retirement and the two issues combined could pose a threat to workforce numbers.

RCN interim head of education Anne Corrin said: ‘We manage to attract older students, which is absolutely how nursing should be. But we do need to keep attracting students of all age groups.

‘There is huge anxiety about the proposed changes to the nursing student bursary, the financial impact it will have on students and the possible knock-on effect on numbers entering nurse training.’

A Council of Deans of Health spokesperson said: ‘Nursing has an excellent record in attracting mature students. We need the government to address this as a risk in its consultation on implementing the reforms.

‘We also need a concerted effort to get the best possible information to prospective students as soon as possible so that they can make informed decisions about applying for courses.’

Nursing Standard, 2 March 2016A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The reforms will ensure students can receive around a 25% increase in the financial support available to them.’

She added the loans system will create up to 10,000 more training places by the end of this parliament.

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