Student nurse applications increase by one third in 2021

student nurse applications, nursing
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After COVID-19 hit the NHS, the public health crisis highlighted the poignant and essential nature of nursing work – leading to student nurse applications increasing to 60,130 for 2021

With the demand for hospitals at an unprecedented level in the UK and huge swathes of the available workforce off-sick, healthcare has never been a more prominent occupation.

With a job considered essential, comes economic security. New figures released by UCAS show how the current situation facing the UK influenced more people to become nurses this year.

In 2021, the January deadlines for student nurse applications are finally closed. It seems that applications for nursing courses have risen by almost a third (32%) to reach 60,130.

Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive, said: “The amazing work of our NHS continues to inspire people of all ages into fulfilling and rewarding careers, helping those in most need as we emerge from the pandemic.”

How old are the new student nurses?

There was an increase in attention from every age group. This includes the traditional intake of 18 year olds who are leaving school, to mature students aged 35 and over. For the second category, it seems that 10,000 applications have been registered – which is the record for this particular age group.

Are there any patterns in ethnicity of applicants?

The largest increase in student nurse candidates happened for the Black and mixed race communities, both up 15% to 40,690 and 25,830. Applicants from the Asian ethnic group have increased by 10% to 70,140, while 11% more white students (to a total of 352,170) have applied.

Did Brexit impact EU student numbers?

Yes, it seems so. The workforce took a -40% hit on the normal figures expected for student nurse applications from the European bloc. The terms between the UK and EU on Brexit still appear obscure to elements of life, and it seems that students would rather not take a risk with their education – especially if they might lose support arrangements.

However, applicants from Ireland have increased by 26% to reach 4,850.

What about non-EU nursing students?

Applicants from non-EU countries are up by 17% to a record 85,610.

Prospective nursing students from China and India have increased to 25,810 (+21%) and 7,820 (+25%) respectively. The US has seen the largest increase of any major nation as applicant numbers have risen 61% to 6,670 – which translates as a sign of trust in the UK’s education system and how it can work for US citizens.

Professor Mark Radford, Chief Nurse, Health Education England, said: “To see applications rise for the third year running, and by such an extraordinary leap, is really wonderful news.

“The tireless and outstanding commitment of all our nurses over the past year – from students and practising professionals to those who’ve returned to work to help with the pandemic response – is the best possible advert for the nursing profession.”


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