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Rise in number of mature applicants to nursing courses in England

Overall applications also rise, but RCN says numbers are still ’way below what is needed’
Mature student

Overall applications also rise, but RCN says numbers are still way below what is needed

The number of people applying to study nursing in England has increased, including the number of mature students, new figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) have revealed.

The data show a 5% rise in UK applicants to nursing courses in England for 2020 entry compared with the previous year a total of 34,550 applicants compared with 32,860.

Fewer applications than in 2016

However, this is more than 12,000 fewer applicants than in 2016, when the figure was 46,700 and which was the last year of NHS bursaries before they were replaced by loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs.

The UCAS figures also record 1,100 more applications to study nursing in England from people aged 35 or

Overall applications also rise, but RCN says numbers are still ’way below what is needed’


Picture: iStock

The number of people applying to study nursing in England has increased, including the number of mature students, new figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) have revealed.

The data show a 5% rise in UK applicants to nursing courses in England for 2020 entry compared with the previous year – a total of 34,550 applicants compared with 32,860.

Fewer applications than in 2016

However, this is more than 12,000 fewer applicants than in 2016, when the figure was 46,700 – and which was the last year of NHS bursaries before they were replaced by loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs.

The UCAS figures also record 1,100 more applications to study nursing in England from people aged 35 or older than last year.

Figures are still ‘way below what is needed’

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair highlighted the overall drop in applications since 2016 and said urgent action was needed to tackle the staffing crisis, which includes more than 40,000 nursing vacancies in England.

‘Would-be nurses are still being put off by the requirement to pay tuition fees and the prospect of a lifetime of student debt,’ she said.

‘The number of potential new nurses is way below what is needed to close the gap in the NHS in England.’

Forthcoming maintenance grants are ‘giving people the confidence to apply’ 

From September, all nursing students in England will be eligible for at least £5,000 in annual maintenance grants, with some disciplines receiving up to £8,000. 

Council of Deans of Health chair of council, Brian Webster-Henderson, said: ‘We particularly welcome the growth in the number of mature applicants who bring valuable skills and experience and are an important part of the future workforce.

‘The recent announcement of maintenance grants in England is playing an important role in promoting the value of healthcare courses, and is giving people the confidence to apply knowing that the financial support is there.’

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We are determined to deliver our commitment of 50,000 more nurses in the NHS [in England by 2025] – and this rise in applications is just the start.’


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