Drop in nursing students at University of Suffolk partly blamed on Government’s withdrawal of bursaries

University of Suffolk in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

University of Suffolk in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Applications by students to study nursing at the University of Suffolk have dropped by 17% since the Government abolished NHS bursaries, new figures reveal.

Paul Driscoll-Evans, head of health sciences at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Paul Driscoll-Evans, head of health sciences at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Changes in Department of Health policy, which came into force in August 2017, mean most health students who would have previously had their courses funded now have to pay annual tuition fees of up to £9,000.

In the current academic year, the University of Suffolk has seen fewer nursing students enrol compared to 2016/17.

Paul Driscoll-Evans, head of health sciences at the University of Suffolk, said: “Although nationally there has been a reported 19% drop in applications to nursing degrees, at the University of Suffolk we have seen around 17%; this can be attributed to the impact of the withdrawal of bursaries. Despite the drop in applications the number of adult nursing students starting with us in September this year has been the same as in 2015 and 2016; and we have seen an increase in those starting our child health nursing course.

“Nursing it is still a very attractive career, and we are proud that many of our students are guaranteed a job in local hospitals following completion of the course.”

Teresa Budrey, director of the Royal College of Nursing in the eastern region, said more people were now leaving the profession than entering it.

“We know that the decision to remove bursaries for nursing students has deterred many from applying to go to university,” she added.

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“We also know that there are not enough nurses being trained to plug the 40,000 nursing vacancies across England left by years of poor workforce planning.”

The long-standing 1% cap on pay rises for NHS workers has also “played a part in driving people away from nursing”, Ms Budrey said.

From September 2018, the University of Suffolk will offer degree apprenticeships in nursing, where students will be able to mix study with work.

These courses are funded by employers, which means apprentices will not have to pay any of their training costs.

Leaders hope this move will boost the number of people taking up a career in nursing.

Despite repeated requests, the Department of Health was not able to provide a comment.