Conservatives pledge to bring back student bursaries if elected

Students who would previously have had their courses funded now graduate with up to £60,000 of debt.

Matt Bodell
24 November 2019
Boris Johnson

The party previously abolished the bursary system due to austerity measures.

In an astonishing U-turn, at the launch of their Election Manifesto, the Conservative Party has pledged to reintroduce the NHS student bursary system to help train and recruit 50,000 more nurses.


In November 2015, George Osbourne announced the end to the NHS student bursary and tuition fee payment due to austerity measures.

Students who would previously have had their courses funded now graduate with up to £60,000 of debt and since cutting the bursary applications to study nursing in England are down by 29%, leaving around 43,000 full-time nursing posts unfilled. 

Last year the Department of Health and Social Care stated it had ‘no plans’ to introduce the bursary.

A funding boost.

The pledge comes alongside the promise of £33.9bn in extra funding for the National Health Service and £5bn in funding for adult social care services.


Similar funding assurances have also been made by the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats.

The additional funding will introduce an additional 50 million GP appointments a year and free hospital parking for some patients and staff.

Critics claim the slim 59-page Conservative Party manifesto appears to be ‘light on detail’ around how any of the pledges for health and social care services would be implemented or funded.

‘We need more detail’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Today’s commitment to recruit and retain 50,000 more nursing staff above and beyond the existing students completing degrees is the right level of aspiration.”


“Forcing would-be nurses to pay tuition fees has demonstrably failed in the last two years. With this announcement, Boris Johnson has not brought back the bursary – he is pledging to return one element of the package and keep the costly tuition fees in place.”

“The number of future nurses being talked about here represent great ambition, but we will need to see some detail about how it can be achieved, and what this means for total investment, including to increase capacity for clinical learning placements in services.”

‘No one should be fooled’.

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said: “No one should be fooled by the promises for the NHS and public sector. For the past nine years the Tories have slashed funding and let services slide.

“Now they are trumpeting a reversal of their own bungled policy of scrapping the nursing bursary – a problem of their own making.

“Social care needs a massive investment and the amounts they propose would barely make a dent.


“The call for higher wages will ring hollow to the millions of people who have seen their wages frozen under the Conservatives.

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