Investing in our future workforce

The number of people applying for nursing degrees in England has fallen 29% since the student bursary was axed. We need urgent investment to reverse the trend. Join our campaign to fund our future nurses

Securing a steady supply of nurses is essential to safe staffing. But how will this be possible when incentives to study nursing are at an all-time low in England, where NHS nurse vacancies stand at 40,000?

In 2016, the UK government removed the student bursary in England, which paid tuition fees in full. They said this would increase the number of degree places with more people able to study nursing, but figures released by UCAS reveal the number of student nursing applicants in England has fallen 29% since then. The reforms have failed. 

Student nurses are unique, and need unique financial support. Completing around 1,000 more hours during their degree than an average student, with placements and academic work to balance, it’s difficult for them to take on additional work to supplement their income.
Not only is the financial burden of undertaking a degree in nursing failing to attract new students, it’s causing many to quit their courses. Figures released by The Health Foundation last September revealed that as many as one in four nursing students in the UK didn’t complete their degree. 

Four students from my cohort, who I know would have been amazing nurses, have already had to drop out

So the #FundOurFuture campaign is demanding that the government looks again at how it supports nursing students in England.

We’re calling for a minimum of £1bn a year to be invested in nursing higher education in England to financially support students and encourage more people to study nursing.

Kelly Hitchcock from the RCN Students Committee says: “The time for action is now. Nursing students face unparalleled pressures, only heightened by financial strain, and without improved support the profession faces an uncertain future.

“The campaign has already made waves. More than 3,000 members have contacted their MP and, after we descended on parliament to lobby MPs last year, Health Minister Stephen Hammond publicly committed to work with the RCN on funding models for nursing students.

“But there is still a long way to go. We urge all our student members to make sure their voices are heard and campaign for a future in which nursing students have proper financial support.”

Campaign highlights

  • Student nurses descend on Westminster to lobby MPs. 
  • Health Minister Stephen Hammond publicly pledges to work with the RCN on student funding.
  • Record numbers of students attend RCN Congress and call for parity in student funding across the UK. 
  • NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens says that the student bursary debate is “back on the table”.

Around the UK 

Students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to receive bursaries, although they’re not all guaranteed to continue.

In Scotland, RCN campaigning led to the Scottish government announcing it would increase the bursary amount, reaching £10,000 per year by 2020.

Across the UK, the RCN supports students with advice on funding, money, accommodation and placements as well as the search for that first nursing job.

Join the campaign

Take two minutes to sign up to the campaign and show your support for funding our future nurses. Find out more about the campaign and download resources on the dedicated #FundOurFuture webpages.

Illustration by Jenny Robins

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