Reforms to nurse education funding to go ahead

How the loss of bursaries will affect future nursing workforce

Bursaries for nursing students will be scrapped from next year, the government has confirmed.

Moves to change nursing education funding have met widespread protests. Picture: Grant Humphreys

This means that nursing and midwifery students in England will face £9,000-a-year tuition fees and student loans from August 2017.

The funding announcement follows a three-month consultation on the proposals that attracted 1,750 responses.

Recently-appointed health minister Philip Dunne, who made the announcement, insisted the government had listened to feedback and had made a number of concessions.

Here’s what the changes will mean for students in the 2017/18 intake:

  • Full-time undergraduate students In line with other undergraduate degree courses, midwifery and allied health students will have to apply for support from the Student Loans Company (SLC) to pay course fees and accommodation costs.
  • Part-time undergraduate students Part-time students can apply for a loan to cover tuition fees. However, bursaries will continue to be made available to a capped number of part-time students who commence studies in 2017/18. This will change for students starting in 2018/19, when they will be able to apply for to SLC for a loan to cover living costs.
  • Placement travel and accommodation costs The government will cover the £303 excess normally paid out by students before they are able to claim travel and accommodation expenses. The government will cover the cost of students who have to pay for secondary accommodation while attending clinical placements, if the case for educational provision and value for money is demonstrated.
  • Childcare Grants of £1,000 per student per year of study will be available, to reflect the higher childcare costs that students undertaking clinical placements may have compared with the wider student population.
  • Maternity leave The 12-month paid maternity leave period currently provided by the bursary system will end.
  • Hardship funds An exceptional hardship fund is to be created in partnership with organisations including the RCN. More details will be announced closer to August 2017.
  • Postgraduate students A bursary for tuition and maintenance will meet the full costs of the course for postgraduate students starting in 2017/18. The government said this will be a ‘transitional arrangement’ to secure the longer term workforce supply. The intention is for these courses to switch eventually to the standard student funding model.
  • Second degree students Students studying nursing as a second degree will be eligible for loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance. This will be paid back at the same time as any loans taken out during their first degree.

The RCN had previously warned students faced graduating with debts of up to £50,000 a year if the plans went ahead. The college's general secretary Janet Davies said it was unfair and risky of the government to put financial burden on nurses of the future.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams vowed to fight the decision, saying the concessions were ‘minimal’ compared to the level of debt nurses will graduate with.

But the changes were welcomed by the Council of Deans, the body representing university health faculties that had previously called for funding reforms. Chair Dame Jessica Corner said: ‘We are pleased that the plans recognise the particular issues around funding placement travel and accommodation expenses and the need to support the high proportion of mature students on healthcare courses.’

Further information:

Department of Health response to bursary consultation

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