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Nursing course applications hit record high in UK

Inspiring COVID-19 work of staff has been ‘best possible advert for nursing profession’
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Inspiring COVID-19 work of staff has been ‘best possible advert for nursing profession’

A record number of people have applied to study nursing in the UK this year, with some nursing heads attributing the rise to the inspirational work of staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) said it received 60,130 applications for nursing courses in the UK by the 29 January deadline, up from 45,430 applications in 2020 and the highest since numbers for nursing courses began to be collated in 2007.

It is also the first time the number of applicants for nursing courses has topped 46,000 since

Inspiring COVID-19 work of staff has been ‘best possible advert for nursing profession’

Picture: iStock

A record number of people have applied to study nursing in the UK this year, with some nursing heads attributing the rise to the inspirational work of staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) said it received 60,130 applications for nursing courses in the UK by the 29 January deadline, up from 45,430 applications in 2020 and the highest since numbers for nursing courses began to be collated in 2007.

It is also the first time the number of applicants for nursing courses has topped 46,000 since 2016, when bursaries were ended for nursing students in England. The number of people applying to study nursing in the UK that year was 56,080.

Rise in applications ‘speaks volumes’ about the public’s view of nursing

Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May said: ‘During the COVID-19 pandemic the level of interest in working for the NHS has trumped lots of other career options, and that speaks volumes about how people recognise our profession, particularly following our most challenging year.’

Health Education England chief nurse Mark Radford said the rise was partly attributable to the work of nursing staff of all levels.

Picture of RCN director for England Mike Adams
Mike Adams

‘The tireless and outstanding commitment of all our nurses over the past year – from students and practising professionals to those who've returned to work to help with the pandemic response – is the best possible advert for the nursing profession,’ he said.

RCN reiterates call for full tuition funding and living cost support

RCN director for England Mike Adams said: ‘This is a welcome boost in applications but follows a number of years of decline since the removal of government support for tuition fees and living costs.

‘This latest boost only takes numbers back to where they were five years ago and is still not at the scale that is needed.’

The latest NHS data show there are 36,655 nursing vacancies in England alone.

Mr Adams repeated the RCN’s call for full tuition funding and living cost support for nursing students to ensure no potential nurses are forced to drop out due to financial pressures.

Breakdown of UK nursing applications in 2021

  • 43,830 from England
  • 7,510 from Scotland
  • 3,270 from Wales
  • 3,050 from Northern Ireland
  • 1,210 from EU countries
  • 1,260 from non-EU countries

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