The suggestion to cut yearly tuition fees from £9,250 to £7,500 is just one of the recommendations from an independent report of post-18 education and funding in England.
The report, led by Philip Augar, acknowledges that additional support should come through reintroducing maintenance grants for students from low income households, and by increasing and better targeting the Government’s funding for disadvantaged students.
Maintenance grants for socio-economically disadvantaged students could rise to at least £3,000 a year for those with a familial income of lower than £25,000. But spreading the repayment period of student loans from 30 to 40 years could also mean an increase in payments for nursing students over their lifetime.
RCN Director of Nursing Policy and Practice Bronagh Scott said: “The reduction in fees will only benefit the highest earners and the average nurse could now be paying back their loans for 40 years after graduation.
“While a portion of nursing students might be reassured to see they could qualify for more financial support, it’s hard to see how this would boost the number of people who study nursing.
"However Augar’s analysis does show that the Government has to do much more to increase the number of students from a wide variety of backgrounds studying nursing. The upcoming workforce implementation plan for England’s NHS is a prime opportunity for the Government to show that they have taken this on board. This will require the reinvestment of at least £1bn into nursing higher education along with additional credible investment to support the existing and future nursing workforce.
“Since 2016, when the bursary was removed in England, the number of applications to nursing degrees has dropped by almost a third. A nursing degree is a course like no other and the next generation of nurses need tailored assistance to encourage them to start courses and enable them to keep studying. The upcoming workforce implementation plan for England’s NHS must outline how policymakers intend to show nurses they are valued and how to make nursing an increasingly attractive career route and must fully fund this ambition."