'Changes to undergraduate funding must not penalise students'

London South Bank University debate airs a spectrum of views on proposal to scrap bursaries

The nurse education funding system needs an urgent revamp, but not at the expense of students, said participants in a debate on the issue. 

The discussion yesterday at London South Bank University was attended by around 180 people and several thousand had access to it on Twitter.

The question posed asked whether removing restrictions on student places and scrapping NHS bursaries would boost the supply of nurses in the UK.

Among various speakers was Council of Deans director Elisabeth Jelfs, who argued the measures would work. Newly qualified staff nurse Robert Waterson from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust spoke to disagree.

Debate organiser, nurse and principal lecturer in leadership Elaine Maxwell said afterwards: ‘People’s views shifted dramatically after the speeches. The conclusion was the system is not sustainable, and removing the bursary will lose many mature students and those studying for a second degree. The debts simply won’t be manageable for them.

‘We took many questions from nursing students and qualified nurses and the point that came up most often was how the government was wrong to expect students to pay for the changes. It was pointed out no risk assessment has been done, no data modelling of the impact, and no alternative options explored.'

MPs will debate the proposed ending of bursaries on January 11 in response to a petition signed by 140,000 people. Representatives of the parliamentary petitions committee observed the debate.

Dr Maxwell, who intends to be present at the MPs' debate, added: ‘The message is: hold back on consulting on and implementing the proposed changes to the bursary and instead do a full investigation of the alternatives available.’

Responses to the simultaneous #WeNurses Twitter chat can be viewed here