Editorial

Charging fees to nursing students is a non-starter

Bursary

The extent to which nursing students in England are struggling to get by while pursuing their professional dream has been laid bare thanks to a Nursing Standard investigation. Our survey reveals that more than 6,500 students have received hardship grants totalling 5.2 million from their universities over the past three years, with some turning to food banks and other sources of support just to survive.

This comes in the context of the government's plans to charge nursing students tuition fees, which will only add to the financial pressure they are under. Although the fees will not have to be repaid until students have started earning a salary of more than 21,000 a year, this change in funding arrangements seems sure to deter thousands of potential recruits from signing up.

Among the arguments in favour of the new approach is that there is currently a cap on the number

The extent to which nursing students in England are struggling to get by while pursuing their professional dream has been laid bare thanks to a Nursing Standard investigation. Our survey reveals that more than 6,500 students have received hardship grants totalling £5.2 million from their universities over the past three years, with some turning to food banks and other sources of support just to survive.

This comes in the context of the government's plans to charge nursing students tuition fees, which will only add to the financial pressure they are under. Although the fees will not have to be repaid until students have started earning a salary of more than £21,000 a year, this change in funding arrangements seems sure to deter thousands of potential recruits from signing up.

Among the arguments in favour of the new approach is that there is currently a cap on the number of pre-registration nursing places, which is set by the Treasury based on the amount of money it decides to make available. The heads of the UK's nursing schools argue that universities will be able to train as many nurses as they like if they are allowed to charge fees to students, which will mean fewer applicants are turned away and the UK's nurse shortage is alleviated.

However, this assumes that there is a plentiful supply of would-be nurses who are prepared to land themselves with such a high level of debt, in the knowledge that they will be joining a profession that is scandalously underpaid and offers no guarantee of career development.

Hopefully ministers will see sense and scrap plans to charge fees. If not then they need to come up with a more generous package of support and an increase in salaries so that graduates can afford to repay their debts, buy a house and even take the occasional holiday.

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