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Student bursaries

Speaking up on nursing pay

About the campaign

In July 2016, the Government confirmed its decision (set out in November 2015) to replace NHS bursaries for nursing and allied health professional students in England with student loans.

Students will be charged tuition fees from 1 August 2017.

Despite the overwhelming concerns which you have helped us to consistently raise with the Government, these plans will now go ahead.

The Government has listened to some of our concerns including on transitional bursaries for postgraduates and hardship funds but there is still a worrying lack of clarity on clinical placements.

This has been a hard-fought campaign and we are grateful for your campaigning efforts.

What happens next?

The RCN is calling on the Government to reverse their decision and reinstate bursaries. 

A second response is expected from the Government in spring 2017, with details on placements and how the extra 10,000 training places promised by the reforms, will work in reality.

We want to mitigate any negative impact to the profession as far as possible. We will be monitoring how the reforms are affecting prospective nursing student numbers. We are also exploring how far the reform has the potential to impact on the quality of nursing education, particularly around the future provision of placements.

RCN believes in the value and rewards of nursing as a profession, and the need to encourage, not discourage, people into nursing, especially under the current nursing shortage.

How will these changes affect my plans to study nursing?

The changes will only apply to nursing students studying in England who begin their undergraduate course from August 2017.

Students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will still have access to the existing bursary.

Nursing students in England will have to pay tuition fees, which could cost up to £9,250 a year.

Affected students will be able to apply for a loan from Student Finance England to cover course fees and to help with living costs.

Student loans are repayable once you start earning over £21,000 a year – at a rate of 9% of everything you earn above this figure.

The remaining loan is written off if you do not pay it back in full within 30 years.

For students who already have a student loan, any second loan you take on will be added to your existing loan and repaid in the same way.

Postgraduate nursing students in England will continue to receive a bursary in 2017-18.

Full details of NHS bursary reform can be found here.

For more information on funding, visit The Funding Clinic.

Read the Government’s response to the student funding consultation.

How you've campaigned

The RCN responded to Government’s 12 week consultation on student funding, using evidence gathered from over 17,000 of you who responded to our survey.

We told the Government that over two thirds of you would not have studied nursing if you’d had to take out a full student loan and pay fees.

We also told them that:

  • 89% of you believe that the changes would result in decreased numbers of student nurses
  • 80% of nurse educators do not support these proposals
  • 90% of you believe that the proposals will disadvantage certain groups of students
  • 80% of you believe that these student funding proposals will have a negative impact on patient care.

The RCN, along with other major health organisations, called for the Government to halt its plans to reform student nurse funding in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the London Assembly also wrote to the Department of Health to ask that they halt the plans because of the impact it will have on nursing students studying in London.

RCN members passed a unanimous resolution on bursaries at Congress. Read more and watch the debate here.

We lobbied MPs and marched the streets of Westminster alongside RCN students against the plans.

RCN student members met with with health minister Ben Gummer over the Government’s plans, and we supported an EDM in Parliament encouraging a rethink of the plans.

Earlier this year, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used an example from an RCN booklet to highlight the importance of the NHS bursary to nursing students at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Many of you have told us what the bursary has meant to you. You can continue to do so below.

Students protest at the DH

17,000 of you shared your thoughts on student funding 

¬£60,000 The amount of debt now faced by prospective students. 
Save the bursary

RCN students marched the streets of Westminster 

RCN response to Government consultation on student funding

Read our response to the Government's proposed changes to student bursaries for nursing students in England.   

Give us your evidence

Tell us what your student bursary means to you. What will this decision mean for the future of nursing?

Latest evidence

Read the latest submissions.
17 January Close up of the Houses of Parliament

Parliament to debate nursing pay

A petition urging the Government to scrap an NHS pay cap of 1% has reached 100,000 signatures.

6 January Scrap the cap

Final push to trigger debate on nursing pay

A petition urging the Government to scrap an NHS pay cap of 1% is nearing 100,000 signatures.

19 December

Nursing applications for 2017 fall

The RCN is concerned the effects on the future workforce will be exacerbated by Brexit and an ageing population.

23 November

Chancellor misses opportunity to tackle nursing workforce crisis

The RCN has responded to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement by expressing concern about the nursing workforce crisis.

21 October

Nursing workforce heading for 'perfect storm'

The RCN has published research today which indicates that the nursing workforce is heading for a ‘perfect storm’.