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Nursing education crisis: ‘we need action now’

Nursing lecturers tell us they’re facing redundancy amid severe financial challenges affecting universities. The next UK government must deliver an emergency intervention within 100 days of taking office, insists the RCN.


Nursing education staff have raised the alarm over university course closures, sharing fears about how such closures could impact nurse recruitment. There are currently 41,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the UK.

In our survey of more than 600 nurse lecturers and other higher education nursing staff, more than 6 in 10 reported redundancies, restructures and recruitment freezes. The situation has become so bad that 1 in 4 nursing educators are considering leaving the profession altogether.

Universities across the UK are facing severe financial difficulties due to a significant fall in the number of international students, along with rising costs and overheads.

It’s also reported that when students finish their courses, they’ve been told there are no graduate-entry nursing roles available. Standards of education are also under threat, with 3 in 4 saying cuts would impact the outcomes of nursing students.

To address the crisis, the RCN is calling for the next UK government to deliver an emergency financial intervention to stabilise higher education institutions within 100 days of taking office.

The situation is particularly severe in England, where university finances are under even more extreme pressure. Our survey showed that 54 out of 72 universities offering nursing degree courses in England are being forced to reduce staffing costs, as the impact of frozen tuition fees and a decline in international student numbers continues to have an impact.

RCN members say the universities affected include the University of Huddersfield, Sheffield Hallam University and Coventry University.

Acting RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Professor Nicola Ranger said: “Nursing is a degree-educated, highly skilled and safety-critical profession, but the very people who teach and train the nurses of the future are being made redundant. The financial crisis in universities is threatening to engulf nursing – we need action now to stop a total collapse of courses.

“What is happening in universities will impact the NHS, the care sector, and their ability to provide safely staffed services. The higher education sector educates and trains the vast majority of nurses and without an urgent intervention, ministers and health leaders will face a deepening nurse recruitment crisis.

“This summer, the government must deliver financial support to stabilise universities. This cannot wait. And we must see ministers protect nursing courses by properly incentivising people to study the profession. That’s how to secure the workforce of the future and protect patient safety."