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Fewer people applying to study UK nursing courses makes workforce plans harder, says RCN

Press Release 13/07/2023

Responding to UCAS figures showing that the number of applicants to nursing courses continues to fall, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said:

“It is deeply concerning to see the number of people applying to study nursing falling again – a clear result of the way the profession has been treated by those in power.

“Compared to last year, this year has seen nearly 17% fewer applicants from the UK applying to nursing courses, and a drop of just over a quarter since the pandemic saw a surge in applications in 2021.

“The nursing workforce remains in crisis, with record numbers forced to take time off due to stress and exhaustion and thousands leaving the profession every year. Now we are seeing this failure to invest in the workforce of today is putting off the nurses of tomorrow.

“This comes after the NHS Workforce Plan for England set out an ambitious long-term growth in university places - today's news shows the task ahead will be even harder than expected, as less people are applying now.

"Paying nurses fairly and providing access to financial support for tuition fees will not only help with the growing cost of living for those choosing to begin the path to the profession, but also make it more attractive to join.

“Urgent action is needed now, or university places will go unfulfilled, vacant posts will remain empty and patient care will continue to be at risk.”


Notes to editors

Figures from UCAS released today show there were 39,900 applicants living in the UK to nursing course in 2023 in the UK. This is a fall of 7,960 (17%) from 2022 when there were 47,860 applicants.  The number of applicants has also decreased from 53,280 in 2021 (25%).

Figures for England show there were 31,430 applicants from England to nursing courses. A fall of 15% from 2022.

Figures for Scotland show there were 4,860 applicants from Scotland to nursing courses. A fall of 16% from 2022.

Figures for Wales show there were 1,650 applicants from Wales to nursing courses. A fall of 27% from 2022.

Figures for Northern Ireland show there were 1,960 applicants from Northern Ireland to nursing courses. A fall of 20% from 2022.

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