Latest UCAS figures reveal implications of bursary removal in nursing applications

The number of mature students accepted onto nursing degree courses has heavily declined with the removal of the bursary, official figures published today reveal.

The number of mature students accepted onto nursing degree courses has heavily declined with the removal of the bursary, official figures published by UCAS today reveal.

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According to UCAS End of Cycle Report 2017, this year 13,025 people age 21 and above were accepted onto nursing courses in England compared with 14,250 in 2016 – a fall of 1,225 mature students, according to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS).

The decrease in the number of mature student acceptances was largely offset by an increase in younger candidates, with acceptances among those age 18-20 rising from 8,380 in 2016 to 9,010 this year.

In England, 22,575 students were accepted onto nursing degrees courses, but this is some way short of the 10,000 extra places that the government said removing student bursaries in this September would create.

In Scotland 3,225 students were accepted onto nursing degrees courses along with 1,730 from Wales and 1,090 from Northern Ireland, making a total of 28,620 UK students accepted on nursing courses this year – 0.9% fewer people than in 2016.

The total figure sees 2017 have the second highest number in training on record, despite an 18% drop in nursing applications on last year.


  • The number of people accepted per application increased from 43.4% in 2016 to 52.1%. The chances of being accepted this year were the highest on record for nursing.
  • In 2017, 98% of all nursing acceptances were from the UK, with 1.5% from EU countries and 0.5% outside the EU.
  • The number of acceptances for applicants from the EU fell from 515 to 425 between 2016 and 2017.
  • There were 105 acceptances from outside the EU in 2017, up by 40 compared with the year before.

Source: UCAS End of Cycle Report 2017

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said: ‘It’s great to see these high numbers of acceptances onto nursing courses, despite a switch from NHS bursaries to tuition fees for nursing subjects at English universities.'

'Remaining in peril'

But RCN associate director of policy and public affairs Lara Carmona said: ‘These figures show the future supply of nurses remains in peril – we have not seen the increase we need across the UK, despite government promises.

‘Ministers said the removal of the student bursary would mean 10,000 more nurses, and promised a 25% increase in training places this year. This has not happened.

'And the prospect of graduating thousands of pounds in debt appears to have deterred more mature students from applying, denying the profession their valuable life experience.'

'More opportunities'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Demand to study nursing has always been high – with two applications for every place – and it is fantastic that this September the second highest ever number of students started training to become our future nurses.

'We recently expanded nurse training places by 25% for this exact reason – to give more talented students the opportunity to be part of the nursing profession and we look forward to welcoming them to our NHS.'

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