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Trend of decline in mature nursing student applications looks likely to continue

Loss of NHS bursary is just one reason for fall in mature nursing student applications – UCAS

Loss of NHS bursary is just one reason for fall in mature nursing student applications – UCAS

The declining number of mature students applying for nursing courses looks likely to continue.


Mature students application dip could be driven by 'financial considerations'.
Picture: Alamy

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has published its analysis on mature students – those age 21 and over – taking higher education courses. It found removal of the nursing bursary contributed to a fall in nursing applications, but said this was not the only reason.

Older students may be more debt-averse

The report said: ‘We have seen salient dips in the general application rate in 2012, and again in 2017.

‘Both coincide with changes to the funding arrangements for undergraduate students in England – 2012 saw the introduction of increased tuition fees, while the NHS bursaries for nursing were abolished in 2017.

‘This may indicate that the mature cohort is more debt-averse, and their decisions are driven by financial considerations.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'The steady decline in mature student numbers since 2014 is extremely concerning for the nursing profession, and the prospect of graduating thousands of pounds in debt appears to have deterred even more from applying since the bursary was scrapped.

'As the report indicates, mature students often have bills to pay and perhaps a family to care for while they study. Any extra financial burden will be too much for some.'

She added that ultimately patients paid the price for the government's failure to recruit more nurses and urged ministers to urge a range of financial incentives to attract people into the profession.

As previously reported, 1,225 fewer mature students were accepted on to nursing courses in 2017 than in 2016.

Rising rates of acceptance

But the report adds: 'Changes to the funding of nursing courses in England are not the sole cause. We have observed changes to the application rate for mature students since 2014, which pre-dates the changes to nursing, and our forecasts predict these declines will continue.'

UCAS noted that while applications may have fallen, acceptance rates have improved among mature students.

The report also revealed that half of all 21 to 25 year olds students live at home, compared to almost 80% of those over 30.


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The UCAS report


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