Editorial

Falling nursing degree applicant numbers show folly of bursary and fees changes

The number of applicants for courses starting in 2018 across the UK is down by a third since just two years ago. If the government is serious about solving this crisis, restoring the bursary, covering tuition fees and increasing student places would go a long way

The folly of the government’s decision to charge tuition fees to nursing students in England and remove their bursary is underlined in the annual release of data from the universities’ admissions service UCAS.

The number of applicants for courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year across the UK is down by a third since the same point just two years ago, when the changes were announced.

UCAS has received applications from 39,140 would-be nurses, down from 54,270 in 2016 and 43,590 last year. The drop was greatest in England, and mitigated only slightly by an increase of 190 applicants in Scotland, where students’ fees and bursaries are still paid.

Investment in nation’s health

The number of places available is not yet known, as universities will only decide over the next six months, but the RCN fears that some courses may not be filled.

Around 23,000 students were accepted onto nursing courses in 2016, so it will depend how many achieve the required grades at A level and are considered suitable candidates.

Unsurprisingly, the Department of Health and Social Care has put its fingers in its ears and is refusing to listen. It’s as if the government thinks repeating its mantra that there will be up to 10,000 more nursing students a year by 2020 often enough will make it happen. It won’t, so action is needed now.

An investment in nursing, and in the future health of the nation, by restoring the bursary, covering tuition fees and increasing the number of places would send all the right messages and demonstrate that the government is serious about solving this crisis.


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