Why Are Nursing Degree Applications Falling?

University places have always been in high demand, with the race for clearing full of high stakes come A Level results day. However, this year, the Royal College of Nursing has reported that the number of applications for university places has fallen, amounting to a drop of a third since 2016. But why are nursing degree applications falling? While it might be good news for students, it could be bad news for the profession if places fail to get filled.

What’s behind the decline in nursing degree applications?

There are several potential reasons behind the decline in nursing degree applications. As of 1 August 2017, NHS bursaries for nursing, midwifery and the majority of allied health students stopped, which has meant that many potential students are deciding against putting in an application.

The bursaries were scrapped as a way to be able to train more nurses, as the bursaries meant there were only a certain number of places available due to NHS budget constraints. Now, those studying nursing will have to pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees, and apply for student loans. Despite being able to offer more places, the uptake hasn’t been as expected, which could cause problems for the NHS in the future.

Even fewer mature students applying for places

In addition to the decline in undergraduate applications, the number of applications by mature students has also declined. Since June 2016, there’s been a 40% decline in applications, despite an increase in the number of available places.

Nursing places have always been competitive, but the latest developments have led to fears that the trend will continue, putting health services and patient care at risk.

A crisis for the nursing profession?

The decline in applications isn’t the only problem being faced by the NHS. Many nurses are quitting the healthcare industry altogether thanks to demanding shifts and ongoing issues around pay.

In response to this, the NHS has launched an £8 million recruitment campaign targeting school children in a bid to encourage them to consider a profession in nursing or midwifery. The campaign comes off the back of the NHS’ 70th birthday, and it’s hoped that the buzz around the occasion will inspire future generations.

Funding alternatives for student nurses

While the bursary might no longer be available, there are still options available for students wishing to study nursing. Some students may be eligible for scholarships at different universities, while there are of course maintenance loans available to help cover living costs. New students may be able to benefit from the Learning Support Fund which was introduced in place of the bursary.

While nursing may have suffered a decline in applications, there has also been a decline in university applications in general. This means that universities could be faced with accepting lower A Level grades in order to fill places. However, this development is great news for students, who are facing tougher exams in order to secure their place at university.

Nursing offers a wide range of career possibilities, with the opportunity to work across different areas of healthcare, travel and more. There are also more flexible working options than you might realise, with the opportunity to work out of hours, instead of working different shifts across busy wards.

If you’re interested in finding out more about out of hours possibilities for nurses, take a look at our recruitment blog for more information.