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New nursing student numbers up 8% on last year’s university intake

More than 26,700 students will begin nursing programmes amid ‘pandemic effect’
Young woman looks at nursing programmes page of UCAS website

More than 26,700 students will begin nursing programmes amid ‘pandemic effect’

The number of students accepted on to UK nursing courses has increased in part it seems, due to the profession’s high profile in the pandemic.

The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) said 26,730 people had a place starting on an undergraduate nursing course as of 10 August. This represents 8% – 1,980 – more than last year.

Rise in new nursing undergraduates cannot address staffing need now

The RCN has welcomed the rise but said it would do nothing to address current nurse staffing shortages, claiming there are about 40,0000 vacancies in England alone.

    More than 26,700 students will begin nursing programmes amid ‘pandemic effect’

    Young woman looks at nursing programmes page of UCAS website
    Picture: iStock

    The number of students accepted on to UK nursing courses has increased in part it seems, due to the profession’s high profile in the pandemic.

    The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) said 26,730 people had a place starting on an undergraduate nursing course as of 10 August. This represents 8% – 1,980 – more than last year.

    Rise in new nursing undergraduates cannot address staffing need now

    The RCN has welcomed the rise but said it would do nothing to address current nurse staffing shortages, claiming there are about 40,0000 vacancies in England alone.

    ‘This latest increase in acceptances to nursing courses is encouraging and is no doubt a result of the high profile and professionalism of nursing staff during the pandemic,’ said RCN England director Patricia Marquis.

    ‘But record numbers of acceptances does not equate to record numbers of nurses entering the workforce, as many of these students won’t qualify until 2024 and beyond.’

    The college continues to call on the government to offer a substantial pay rise to nurses to prevent many from leaving the profession.

    Number of students starting UK nursing programmes

    Figures record where students live, not where they will study. Correct as of 10 August 2021.

    • England 20,240
    • Scotland 3,550
    • Wales 1,410
    • Northern Ireland 1,060
    • Outside UK 490

    Source: UCAS

    Overall increase driven by rise in new nursing undergraduates in England

    The growth in 2021 acceptance figures was driven by a significant increase in England with 1,990 more people getting places than last year.

    New nursing student numbers in the rest of the UK remain relatively stable. In Wales, there are 20 more than last year while there was no change in Scotland. Numbers were down slightly in Northern Ireland, with 10 fewer acceptances there than last year.

    The number of men embarking starting nursing programmes has risen 4% since last year to 2,330.

    England’s health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said the dedication shown by healthcare professionals during the pandemic ‘has clearly inspired the next generation’.

    However, not all nursing students accepted on to courses will complete their studies. Nursing Standard analysis in 2020 found almost one in four nursing student leave their course before graduation.


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