In a worrying trend that has emerged over the past few years, the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK has expressed serious concern regarding the significant drop in applications for healthcare and teaching degrees. Recent data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has revealed a stark decline in the number of applicants for nursing, midwifery, and teacher training degrees since 2021.
According to UCAS's latest data for the 2023 admissions cycle, the number of applicants for nursing degrees has plummeted by over 11,000, from 59,860 to 48,625. Midwifery applications have also seen a worrying decline, dropping by nearly 3,000 from 13,460 to 10,130. Similarly, applications for teacher training degrees have decreased by over 1,000, from 6,395 to 4,945.
These declines come despite overall application numbers remaining relatively steady over the past three years. This specific drop in healthcare and teaching degree applications has raised alarms about the future of these critical public sectors.
NUS UK has called on the government to take immediate action to reverse this trend. The union is advocating for the reintroduction of grants for students pursuing degrees in healthcare and teaching. Additionally, NUS UK emphasizes the need for these students to receive financial compensation for the work experience they undertake alongside their studies.
Chloe Field, NUS UK Vice President of Higher Education, commented on the issue, stressing the undervalued nature of teachers and NHS staff in society. She highlighted the ongoing crises in these sectors, including staff shortages and recruitment challenges, exacerbated by substantial real-term pay cuts. Field pointed out that the next generation of public sector workers is at risk, as students passionate about these fields are increasingly unable to afford the necessary education. She noted that nursing and midwifery students often have to take up part-time jobs to manage their living expenses, in addition to their demanding academic and practical training schedules.
“The government needs to reintroduce grants for healthcare and teaching students," Field stated, "so that we don’t continue to lose these essential professions, as well as start paying them for the work they do whilst on the ward or in the classroom.”
The NUS UK has also launched a petition urging the government to increase grants and bursaries for students in these fields. This call to action aims to ensure that the financial barriers do not deter potential future healthcare professionals and teachers, who are essential for the wellbeing and development of society. The petition can be signed on the NUS website at https://www.nus.org.uk/ucas-end-of-cycle-2023-response.
As the NUS UK continues to advocate for these changes, the data from UCAS serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing the education and healthcare sectors in the UK. The need for government intervention is urgent to safeguard the future of these critical profession