Nursing degree applications fall by a further 12%

The fall in mature student numbers has been even more extreme, with a 16 percent drop and an unprecedented total decline of 40 percent since June 2016.

Ian Snug
12 July 2018
student nurses walking

Nursing degree applications continue to plummet in England, falling by 12% compared to last year.

The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has revealed today that the number of nursing degree applications in England has fallen by a further 12%.


Numbers applying to begin training in September 2018 have dropped by 4,800 compared to the same time last year, resulting in a total decline of 16,580 since March 2016, the last year students received the NHS bursary.

In a major survey completed by the Nursing Standard and the Sunday Mirror, two-thirds of nurses said that patient care has deteriorated significantly in the past five years and that short staffing meant they were ‘struggling to keep patients safe’.

40% drop in mature students since 2016.

The fall in mature student numbers has been even more extreme, with a 16 percent drop and an unprecedented total decline of 40 percent since June 2016.

Seven hundred fewer students began training in September 2017 than a year earlier – the first intake after changes to student funding. Today’s application data suggests a second fall can be expected in September this year. Last year, Ministers announced extra nurse training places but did not attract students to fill them.


The NHS Pay Review Body has warned this workforce gap could persist until 2027 unless immediate action is taken, jeopardising patient care for much of the next decade. In the official report to Government last month, the PRB told ministers the removal of the nursing bursary had resulted in a marked drop in applications.

Last week, the NHS in England launched a nurse recruitment campaign after concerns over falling student numbers and the loss of experienced nursing staff.

Failing to recruit more nurses puts patients at risk.

The Royal College of Nursing says that failing to recruit more nurses will only put patients at risk.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Failing to recruit more nurses puts patients at risk, and with 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, we cannot sit back and watch applications fall year on year. It is clear now that removing the bursary has been a disaster. It is time Ministers looked again at this policy, before patients suffer the consequences.


“On top of the serious decline in overall nursing applications, the 40% drop in mature students applying to study nursing is a particular concern. These students represent a vital part of the nursing workforce, particularly in mental health and learning disabilities. It is these areas that benefit most from the life experience mature students bring, and where the shortage of nurses is most keenly felt.

“We urgently need financial incentives to attract more students into the profession, and nursing students must be encouraged and supported. Our health and social care system is crying out for more nurses and recruitment should be the number one priority for the new Health Secretary.”

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