News Writer Charlotte O’Keeffe reports on the record breaking rise of student nursing applicants

Written by Charlie O'Keeffe

UCAS recorded an increase of 38% in 18-year-old students choosing to study nursing since 2019. This increase exists across several age groups, with a rise in applications from those over 21 of almost a third. This year, a record 28,815 applicants’ first choice was nursing. 

Chief Executive of UCAS, Clare Marchant, pointed out that this will be helpful in relieving staff shortages. Marchant also stated that she expected this increase to continue before next week’s application deadline for courses starting in autumn.

Nursing is now the fifth most popular subject studied in higher education in England. There had previously been a fall in applications, after the government removed bursary funding in 2017. The increase can also be linked to greater social mobility, with subjects like nursing, education, and health and social care courses appealing to more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, there is still a gender imbalance, with nine times more women applying than men.

This increased uptake has been linked to the pandemic, as the work of NHS nurses throughout has been an inspiration to new applicants. A report from UCAS and Health Education England reported that 69% of recent nursing applicants said that they were inspired to pursue the career by the pandemic. Around one in ten cited COVID-19 as the most important factor in their decision, and one in four said the high profile of healthcare workers had a significant impact on their decision.

This increased uptake has been linked to the pandemic, as the work of NHS nurses throughout has been an inspiration to new applicants

Redbrick spoke to Miriam McKinney, who has recently changed courses and will be studying nursing next year. When asked what prompted her interest in the field, she talked about the possibility of forming ‘strong bonds’ with patients and families. In addition, she pointed out that ‘the clinical skills learnt can be applied outside the hospital environment’, and that a nursing qualification will enable her to ‘travel and work in many countries.’ 

Miriam went on to say that although the pandemic was not something that ‘solely’ made her want to go into nursing, she pointed out the pandemic ‘put a spotlight on the profession and it appealed to me greatly.’ She said that the work nurses have done during the pandemic has encouraged her to work harder as it ‘highlighted the importance of nursing as the NHS is essential to everyone.’

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