Applications for nurse training soar as the pandemic ‘inspires’ a generation

The rise brings the profession back into line with number of applications from nearly a decade ago.

Chloe Dawson
18 February 2021
Student Nurse Lecture Theatre

The number of applications to study nursing have risen by almost a third.

Applications to study nursing in the UK have increased by almost a third (32%), according to new data.


Data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show record numbers of 18-year-olds (16,560 applicants, up 27% from 2020) and those aged 35 and over (10,770, a 39% rise) have applied to study nursing so far this year.

Although the rise is good news, it simply brings the profession back into line with number of applications from nearly a decade ago, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said:  “I’m delighted to see such an incredible boost in this year’s applications, with more mature applicants helping to contribute to a diverse and truly representative nursing workforce. Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to support our health and social care services.”

“We’re another step closer to delivering 50,000 more nurses for our NHS and providing better healthcare for everyone.”



RCN Director for England Mike Adams responded to the news; “Today’s nursing staff are clearly inspiring those of the future. Their professionalism and dedication in the last 12 months have encouraged even more people determined to join a diverse and fulfilling career.

“This is a welcome boost in applications but follows a number of years of decline since the removal of government support for student nurses’ tuition fees and living costs.

“This rise in applications only takes numbers back to where they were five years ago and is still not at the scale needed. More must be done to close the gap on those that have been lost in that time.

“With tens of thousands of vacant nursing jobs, every qualified candidate needs to be supported through their education into the right job.


“This starts by providing full tuition funding and living cost support to make sure none of these students are forced to leave because of financial pressures, and must be matched by acting to keep the nursing staff that have provided such inspiration by giving them the pay rise that properly reflects their skills.”

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