The number of people applying to become nurses in England has dropped dramatically, Aban Contractor writes.
Fewer people applied to study at United Kingdom higher education institutions in the 2017 academic year, with UK applications falling by 5 per cent and applicants from the European Union by 7 per cent, according to figures to be published today.
The subject with the most notable decrease in applicants was nursing, at a time when England’s National Health Service has a vacancy rate of about 10 per cent or 21,000 full-time staff. Applicants from England making at least one choice to study nursing fell by 23 per cent to 33,810.
UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said the government insisted that replacing bursaries with loans would bring in an additional 10,000 nurses.
“Instead the exact opposite has happened,” she said. “With applications down nearly a quarter, ministers must accept they got this wrong and rethink this disastrous policy.
“There’s likely to be a similar drop in applications for other NHS students, which begs the question as to who will be caring for us all in the future.”
England’s National Health Service has a vacancy rate of about 10 per cent or 21,000 full-time staff. Applicants from England making at least one choice to study nursing fell by 23 per cent to 33,810
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), who compiled the figures, said applications for full-time undergraduate study made by the January 15 deadline were the first reliable indicator of demand for UK courses. It was the second largest of only three declines at UK level since the current applications system began in 2002.
“Across the UK, the number applying to higher education has fallen: from England by 6 per cent, from Northern Ireland by 5 per cent, from Scotland by 2 per cent and from Wales by 7 per cent,” UCAS said.
“The analysis reveals that the largest decreases are for older applicants from England and Wales. In England the number of 19-year-old applicants has fallen by 9 per cent, 20-year-olds by 9 per cent, 21-24 by 15 per cent, and 25 and over by 23 per cent.”
Michael Peak, senior education adviser at the British Council told Chief-Exec.com yesterday that it was a concern that international applications to UK universities were showing a decline at a time when most other countries were benefitting from opening up to global talent.
“The reduction in EU applicants bears out recent British Council research which showed 30 per cent of young people in the European Union aged 18-34 were less likely to study in the UK following the referendum vote,” he said.
“The UK is home to a diverse range of world-leading, international universities which attract knowledge and talent to support students, businesses and our international reputation. We need to continue to work hard with policy makers and university leaders to ensure that UK education remains an attractive choice.”
As Chief-Exec.com reported in September, UK universities were home to 125,000 students and 43,000 staff from the EU. At last count, the UK higher education sector generated £10.7bn a year in export earnings.
It is important also that we make clear that European students continue to be welcome at UK universities and that their contribution to academic life is invaluable
Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said there appeared to be a number of factors behind the decline, including the possible impact of the Brexit vote on EU applicants.
“While the drop is not catastrophic, particularly given last year’s record high, there is a need to address some issues urgently,” she said.
Professor Goodfellow said that changes this year to the way degrees in nursing, midwifery and some other allied health profession courses in England were funded meant that an initial drop in applicant numbers had been expected. Demand for places on those courses remained strong, but the situation needed to be monitored over the next year.
“Graduates in these skilled professions are in demand and they make an enormous contribution to our health and care services,” she said.
— Universities UK (@UniversitiesUK) February 1, 2017
The drop in EU applicants highlighted the need to ensure that, following the vote to leave the EU, prospective European applicants were made fully aware of the fees and financial support arrangements well in advance of next year’s cycle.
“It is important also that we make clear that European students continue to be welcome at UK universities and that their contribution to academic life is invaluable,” Professor Goodfellow said.
“… Given the strong demand, there is a big opportunity to attract more students to study in the UK. We need the government to take action to make the UK an even more attractive destination for qualified students and talented university staff from around the world.”
By Aban Contractor