This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Students turn away from nursing as applications fall 'dramatically'

Written by: | Published:

There were 19% fewer nursing course applications There were 19% fewer nursing course applications in 2017 compared to last year

Nursing recruitment has taken another blow as UCAS reports a drastic fall in the number of applications for 2017 nursing courses.

The new figures published on 13 July follow a warning from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that more nurses were leaving their register than were joining. England is currently short 40,000 nurses.

READ MORE: More nurses left the NHS than joined up in past year

UCAS has revealed that the total number of applicants for UK study has fallen by 12,610 (19%) since 2016 and the number of students from England applying has fallen by 23%. Year-on-year fluctuations have marked 1% differences up or down since 2014, indicating a dramatic shift in the appeal of nursing education.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has indicated that factors influencing prospective students’ decisions will include the vote to leave the European Union, the 1% cap on pay rises holding wages below inflation, and the introduction of tuition fees for student nurses.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘When the NHS is struggling without enough staff to provide safe care, extra effort is needed to bring more nursing staff through training. Despite government promises, the number of training places has not increased and student interest has fallen dramatically.

READ MORE: Government may withdraw promise of 10,000 new student nurses, universities say

‘The low pay in the profession means most students will never earn enough to repay the large loans. The move makes university seem out of reach for too many potential nurses at a time when they are needed most.

‘The nursing shortage will get even worse unless Ministers support people into training and scrap the cap on pay to keep experienced staff.’

While the number of EU students applying fell by 24%, there was a 38% rise in the number of non-EU internationals applying. However, this rise is marginal as it moved from 480 in 2016 to 670 this year, compared to larger swings in other groups.

READ MORE: Report predicts shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020

There was an above-average fall in the number of male applicants – dropping by 27% compared to 19% for women – and in particular older male applicants, including a fall of 41%in the number of applications from men in their thirties. The RCN expressed concerns that the profession’s gender divide will widen rather than narrow.

UCAS director of analysis and research Mark Corver said: ‘How these trends translate into students at university and colleges will become clear over the next six weeks as applicants get their results and secure their places, and new applicants apply direct to the clearing process.’

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.


Student nurses should not only have free training but should be paid a proper wage rather than have to loan the money off the Government. Universities don't want the fees to be removed in England as they are filling the coffers of their establishments, in fact they are increasing fees next year. Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland don't charge any university students, they also get free prescriptions in those countries; only England charges for both!
Posted by: ,
I am not surprise with the low recruitment - the bursary is gone !! although I hope it was not an inducement to the profession but was a genuine commitment for those wanting to enter the caring profession and passionate about good delivery of care to the sick and vulnerable in society. I believe some financial assistance should be given to those wanting to pursue Nursing career path and to be given a starting salary pursuant to the area of work and nursing specialism to include subsidized accommodation particularly for nurses working in deprived areas
Bring back the Student Nurses homes - this will no doubt ease some of the financial constraints put on students
Posted by: ,
I cannot believe that student nurses will have to pay for their education/training!!
when I did my training we got paid a wage (not much but a wage), I remember being a big part of the work force on the wards and counted in the staff numbers, running wards towards the end of your training.
nursing is a "calling" and It will be such a shame that the NHS will miss out on good nurses due to the fact they will not be able to afford the training and live once qualified!!
Posted by: ,
It amazes me that people appear to be surprised that withdrawing the bursary appears to have had this effect . . . if the concerns are that people will train as a nurse and then never work in that profession; then make it a condition that you have to work for 3 -5 years in the nhs in order not to be liable to pay back the bursary/ or have % deducted for every year you remain within the nhs over a fixed (5%) year period.
It is not just about the shortage of future nurses, there is large pool of experienced nurses, esp in the community who are retiring over the next 5 - 10 years, which will reduce the repository and support available to the 'next generation'.
Posted by: ,
As a mature student, now a nurse I could not have done my training if i had had to pay money back, I was lucky I do not have to pay it back, are wages are a joke for what we do, are wards are unsafe as we don't have enough nurses we are looking after 10- 15 patients who are poorly because of this shortage of nurses,and we have no choice it is so dangerous we need to be encouraging new nurses.
Posted by: ,

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Read a free issue from Practice Nursing

Register to read a free issue from our sister publication, Practice Nursing.

Including articles on asthma, diabetes and more. Read your copy.


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.