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‘Deeply troubling’ slump seen in students joining nursing courses

Nursing degree courses accepted 3,200 fewer students in 2022, a drop blamed by the RCN on ‘poor and unfair’ treatment of the profession
Image of a senior nurse talking to two nursing students

Nursing degree courses accepted 3,200 fewer students in 2022, a drop blamed by the RCN on ‘poor and unfair’ treatment of the profession

The number of students accepted onto nursing degree courses this year has fallen by 10% from last year, according to the latest figures.

Data published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) today show that 29,445 people have been accepted onto nursing courses in 2022, around 3,200 fewer than in 2021.

Universities in Wales had the biggest dip in acceptances, with nursing places falling 22% and 375 fewer acceptances compared with

Nursing degree courses accepted 3,200 fewer students in 2022, a drop blamed by the RCN on ‘poor and unfair’ treatment of the profession

Image of a senior nurse talking to two nursing students
Image: Annette Taylor-Anderson

The number of students accepted onto nursing degree courses this year has fallen by 10% from last year, according to the latest figures.

Data published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) today show that 29,445 people have been accepted onto nursing courses in 2022, around 3,200 fewer than in 2021.

Universities in Wales had the biggest dip in acceptances, with nursing places falling 22% and 375 fewer acceptances compared with 2021.

In England the number of accepted applicants fell by around 2,500 or 10% and in Scotland it fell by 340 or 8%, with Northern Ireland bucking the trend with a small increase of 30 students or 3%.

The RCN called the figures ‘deeply troubling’ and said people are being put off going into nursing education due to the ‘poor and unfair’ treatment of the profession.

Acceptances onto nursing courses do not bode well for profession or safety of patients, says RCN

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘With record waiting lists we need the pipeline of the nurses of the future to be expanding, not contracting. That acceptances onto nursing degree courses, and applications to them, is falling does not bode well for our profession – or for the safety of patients.

‘Tomorrow’s staff need to know that a career in nursing shouldn’t come with a personal financial sacrifice. A lifetime of service must not mean a lifetime of poverty.’

A perplexed young woman looking at her credit card
Picture: iStock

The number of applicants overall also decreased, from 59,860 in 2021 to 56,155 in 2022, a fall of 6%. The number of international applications increased by 28%, to 4,430 from 3,460.

But the figures are still above those for 2019 (25,890), with the COVID-19 pandemic believed to have inspired a new cohort of nurses in 2020, leading to record applications and acceptances (32,575).

Even so, analysis by the Nursing Standard shows that nursing courses have attrition rates of 33%, with just two thirds of students completing their degree on time.

The study found that the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, bad experiences on clinical placements and stretched finances had led some nursing students to drop out or defer.

Ms Cullen said: ‘Nursing students in higher education should have access to adequate financial support for tuition and the cost of living – and fair pay for the work they do. Until this happens, this downward trend in interest in the profession is likely to continue.’


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