Rise in nursing student numbers welcome, but not enough to solve workforce crisis

13 Aug 2020

Figures released today show an increase in candidates accepted onto nursing degree courses, but more financial support is needed for student nurses says the RCN.

Nursing students

Today, on A-level results days, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reveal the number of people accepted onto nursing degree courses across the UK for the 2020/21 academic year has risen by 13% from 2019. The figures for each country are:

  • England: 18,250 acceptances to nursing courses, an increase of 14% from 2019
  • Northern Ireland: 1,070 acceptances to nursing courses, an increase of 13% from 2019
  • Scotland: 3,550 acceptances to nursing courses, an increase of 16% from 2019
  • Wales: 1,390 acceptances to nursing courses, an increase of 4% from 2019.

Although this is a welcome boost, further action is needed to safeguard the future of the nursing workforce and provide financial support for nursing students.
The NHS in England alone is working under the pressure of around 40,000 nursing vacancies and a recent RCN survey showed 36% of respondents across the UK were considering leaving the profession.
Our Fund our Future campaign in England is calling on the government to abolish self-funded tuition fees for all nursing students and introduce universal living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need. We also want student debt removed for all those who have taken out student loans to pay fees since 2017.
Mike Adams, RCN Director for England, said: “I’m delighted to see the rise in the number of people accepted onto nursing courses and I wish them all very best as they set out on the journey towards what is an incredible career in nursing.

“Anyone considering nursing today can be sure that the profession itself is ready to welcome you in and support you throughout your career, but we will continue to keep the pressure on the government to do more to value our students and nursing workforce.”

Although the government has announced the introduction of a £5,000 living grant for nursing students in England and increased apprenticeships funding, much more investment is needed to sustainably support students through the nursing degree and into the workforce.


Page last updated - 13/02/2021