Student rates

Applications for female nursing students down 8% after record pandemic year

The number of people applying for undergraduate nursing courses in the UK has fallen by 8% since last year, according to 2022 final admissions data.

The figures, released by the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS), revealed that 52,150 people applied to become student nurses this year, up from 56,630 in 2021.

However, the 2022 figures still remain above pre-pandemic levels and the number of applicants has increased by 10% compared to 2020.

UCAS pointed out in February that last year’s application rates for healthcare programs were atypical, with research suggesting applicants were inspired by the coronavirus pandemic and the efforts of frontline workers.

‘Ministers everywhere must prioritize attracting the next generation to fill vacancies’

Pat Cullen

Still, the drop in the number of applicants has raised concerns among some nursing leaders.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “It’s further evidence this week that things are headed in the wrong direction.

“An 8% drop in applications to nursing courses across the UK is a real cause for concern amid a workforce crisis that is jeopardizing safe patient care.”

The data showed that the biggest drop in the number of applicants was for mature students, with a 13% decrease from last year compared to those over the age of 21.

Meanwhile, for applicants aged 18 and 19, there has been a steady increase every year, with a 30% increase in applications since 2019.

Ms Cullen said: “With the biggest drop in applications from mature students, financial pressures are at play and the prospect of taking on more debt when inflation soars is a bridge too far.

“The heightened interest of 18-year-olds is a testament to nurses inspiring the next generation, but the profession is hugely diverse and counts on attracting people of all ages and backgrounds, often in the part of a second career.”

In terms of gender, the number of female candidates saw a decrease of 9% compared to 2021 but increased by 8% compared to 2020.

However, looking at data from the past four years, there has been a 53% increase in the number of male applicants, with 6,570 male applicants this year.

Breaking down the UK countries, each provider country saw a decrease in the number of applicants from 2021, but an increase from 2020.

The number of applicants for nursing courses in England is down 6% from 2021 and up 14% from 2020.

For Scottish providers, the number of applicants decreased by 12% compared to 2021 and increased by 4% compared to 2020.

Suppliers in Wales saw the same percentage decrease in applicants as in Scotland, 12%, but this was still a 17% increase from 2020.

“If we take 2021 as an outlier, the higher health education sector has seen a steady increase in the number of applicants over the past few years”

Katerina Kolyva

Finally, providers in Northern Ireland saw the number of applicants decrease by 7% compared to 2021 and increase by 19% compared to 2020.

In terms of recruitment of international students, there was a 28% increase compared to 2021, while the number of UK-domiciled applicants decreased by 10%.

Similarly, the number of students from the European Union (EU) decreased compared to last year, but the number of non-EU domiciled students increased considerably, from 880 applicants in 2019 to 3 410 in 2022.

These figures coincide with recent data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which showed that the number of nurses leaving the profession had increased for the first time in recent years and that half of all new entrants were overseas recruits.

Dr Katerina Kolyva, chief executive of the Council of Deans of Health, acknowledged that nursing courses saw a record number of applications in 2021.

She said: “If we take 2021 as an outlier, the higher health education sector has seen a steady increase in the number of applicants over the past few years.

“Universities have worked hard to ensure that the growing number of students receive the quality education and support they need to progress.

“For student numbers to be sustained, we need to recognize the importance of embracing technological innovation in education and ensuring we have the right workforce in terms of capacity and expertise. to support students.

Meanwhile, NCR leader Ms Cullen urged ministers to ‘prioritize attracting the next generation to fill vacancies, starting with a fair wage’.

She also added that the government’s plans to defund BTECs in health and social services would risk worsening the drop in the number of applications.

She said: “Ministers also have the power to strengthen the future of nursing by funding tuition fees and providing higher maintenance grants.”