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UCAS report shows increase in student nurse applications

A recent report published by UCAS in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE) has shown that the COVID-19 Pandemic has been one of the main causes for an increase in student nurse applications with a record number of 28,815 applicants of all ages applying for a nursing learning programme including the Access to Higher Education Nursing Diploma in 2021.

The report, published by UCAS, shows that the new Learning Support fund, ‘We are the NHS’ campaign and a £55 million investment alongside the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge increase in student nurse applications. 560,000 people have started a nursing qualification or training since March 2020, 34% more than 2019. Of the nurse applicants surveyed; 69% mentioned the pandemic as a reason for their application with 10% citing the pandemic as their main reason for taking the step and completing their student nurse applications. A further 25% of nursing applicants surveyed stated that healthcare personnel were the most significant influencer in making their decision. Although this increase in student nurse applications is mostly young adults (aged 18), more mature learners have also heard the call of the healthcare industry; last year more than 25% of all Access to Higher Education applications were for nursing diplomas.

The key findings of the report are:

  • A ‘positive equality gap’. Nursing joins education and health and social care courses as one of only three subjects where more young people from the most disadvantaged areas in the UK choose to study nursing than their most advantaged counterparts.
  • More geographically mobile ‘future nurses’ start their training. Driven by the increase in younger applicants to nursing, there was a 51% uplift in aspiring nurses starting courses outside an hour and a half radius from home. This has the potential to address geographic ‘cold spots’.
  • Mental health nursing receives a welcome boost with 30% more students applying for mental health nursing courses compared to 2019. This comes after UCAS reported a 450% increase in the number of mental health declarations given in the UCAS application over the last decade. 
  • A stark gender gap. Men remain an untapped source for nurses, with women more than nine times more likely to choose, and be placed on, nursing courses. The application gap rises to 57 times more likely for children’s nursing courses.
  • EU demand holds firm - demand for nursing courses from EU applicants rose by 6%, in stark contrast to the overall fall of 42% in EU applications to English courses.

As an Access to Higher Education Validating Agency offering an Access to Higher Education Nursing Diploma, we are thrilled to see this increase in student nurse applications.

Find out more about the Access to HE Diploma and the Access to HE Diploma (Nursing & Midwifery).


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