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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

It is, however, positive that 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?

We stand ready to work with the Government to ensure the best for nursing students in England, including students who find themselves in severe financial hardship.

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.

For more information, see 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.
23 November Stack of pound coins on some bank notes

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 The RCN is calling on the Government to scrap the 1% pay cap for NHS staff

Nursing workforce heading for 'perfect storm'

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

12 October

Petition to scrap NHS pay cap

A petition calling for an end to the 1% cap on NHS pay awards has gained more than 19,000 signatures in just 10 days.

30 September

1% pay cap for NHS staff 'unsustainable'

The RCN is calling on the Government to give NHS staff an above-inflation pay rise to help solve a recruitment and retention crisis.

12 September

Nurses warned not to put future at risk in pension opt-out offer

Nurses in Hertfordshire could risk their long-term financial future if they opt out of the NHS Pension Scheme in return for higher pay.