LB

By Lorraine Burgess, Chair Elect of the N&AHP Committee

On nursing student bursaries cuts. I am now old enough to claim that I no longer have teenage children; my “baby” turned twenty last week.

I have two daughters, one a graduate (she was the first year of the £9,000 a year degree) and my second is currently a 2nd year undergraduate. They will both have to pay back the £27,000 tuition fees, plus their student loan £9,900, as well as the generous overdrafts kindly supplied by the bank! So all in all they will owe about £40,000 as fresh-faced graduates.quote2

“Why should my children have to put up with graduating with a huge debt while Nursing Students have no tuition fees to pay back?”

When the rumour mill started that the government were “considering” ending the Nursing Student Bursary scheme to save about £800M per year, my academic nursing colleagues were up in arms – a disaster for recruitment, nursing numbers would be decimated.

THE SHORT STORY: Nursing has been named the “Golden Degree”, because tuition fees do not apply and students receive allowance
The government is considering ending the Nursing Student Bursary scheme
This will save about £800M per year.

My initial reaction to removal of the scheme was “great – and so they should.”  Why should my children have to put up with graduating with a huge debt while Nursing Students have no tuition fees to pay back and get paid by the NHS to train?

This may seem a little short-sighted and I know my colleagues will argue that it will put off those from less affluent backgrounds applying for a nursing degree.  What about the workforce shortfall – what will happen when only the middle class elite will be able to afford to train? There will be even fewer nurses than there are now.  As I’m fast approaching needing a nursing home and a Zimmer it’s an argument that strikes a chord.

There are about 400,000 applicants annually for the 20,000 nursing student places funded by Health Education England.  Seen as the ‘Golden Degree’ (no tuition fees and they pay you to study) there are perhaps some students applying who lack the right motivation (having interviewed hundreds of potential nursing student in my previous academic life I speak with insight on thisquote2

“We will get students who are committed to train for a professional degree with good prospects of employment at the end”

If universities did not have to rely on the commissioned numbers from HEE they could offer many more places on their courses thus meeting demand.  Students from more disadvantaged backgrounds will still have their tuition fees paid (as is currently the case) and, depending on their circumstances, they may still qualify for financial support.
By removing the nursing student bursary I believe there will be more places available for the students who are committed to train for a professional degree with good prospects of employment at the end. Remember the hoo-ha in 2012 that the £9,000 per year tuition fees would see a massive drop in UCAS applications?  That didn’t materialise, I just wonder what Her Majesties’ government will spend the £800M on.  Perhaps they will use the money to help fund health and social care?

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