This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Serious decline in applicants for university nursing courses

Written by: | Published:

Fewer nursing graduates are due to enter the work Fewer nursing graduates are due to enter the workforce in the next few years

Nursing has experienced a 23% decline in university applications from last year, according to the latest figures from UCAS.

Applicants from England making at least one choice of nursing fell to 33,810 in 2017. There were 43,800 applicants in England in January 2016. This means 9990 fewer people have chosen to study nursing compared with the previous academic year.

Most applicants to nursing are over 19 years old and English applicants from this age group decreased by between 16% and 29%. Applicants to nursing aged 18 years old fell by 10%.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said that this fall in applicants would ‘threaten nursing’s future’. The RCN previously warned that the decision to axe student nursing bursaries would harm numbers of applications. ‘The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation.’

She added that the ‘outlook is bleak’. Fewer EU nurses are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote, and nearly half the workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2020.

She suggested that the government should take immediate action to encourage more applicants by reinstating student funding and investing in student education.

However, Professor Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said that it was to be expected that there would be fewer applicants in the first year following the changes to the funding system. She highlighted that there had been a reduction in applicants to higher education courses across the board. She also said that the government had created new routes into nursing such as the nursing apprenticeships and nursing associates to encourage people into nursing.

Senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and advanced nurse practitioner Marie-Therese Massey thinks it is understandable that the introduction of tuition fees would have an impact on applications to nursing degrees.

‘What is needed is an increase in different models of nursing education that includes growing the future registered nursing workforce from the roots up. We need to embrace nursing associates and apprentices and encourage and support healthcare assistants to move towards registration as qualified nurses,’ she added.

The UCAS figures showed that the largest decrease was exhibited in England with a 23% drop, but decreases were also evident in Wales (11%) Scotland (7%) and Northern Ireland (4%).

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Reality check: Why would anyone want to pay for the pleasure of working 12 hour shifts while on placement, pay for transport to get to placement in addition to completing assignments while studying for exams and at the end of the 3 years be in debt ? The reward ( wage) at the end is hardly enticing.
I agree we do need to embrace nursing associates and encourage HCA to move towards registration, however while this body are being trained who will continue the care they provide on the wards or community when they are on placement or in university? It feels we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Posted by: ,
There is a lot of pressure being a nurse constant updates, courses, revalidation, registration fee, mandate training and for low pay no wonder there is a decline in nursing students
Posted by: ,

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.