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HEE welcomes record rise in nursing students

16 December 2020

Record numbers of nursing students have been accepted onto university courses following a concerted recruitment campaign by Health Education England and NHS England and Improvement.

Figures released today by UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, show the number of nursing applicants winning places at English universities in 2020 rose by 25.9 per cent compared with 2019, up from 23,630 to 29,740.

The number of successful mature applicants aged 35 and over rose by 43.6 per cent compared with the previous year, while the number of male students winning places was up by 36 per cent in 2020 compared with 8.5 per cent in 2019.

Placements for 18-year-old school leavers rose by 25 per cent.

Overall, there were steep increases for every age group in the number of students winning nursing places, with a clear trend towards older applicants attaining places.

The rise for England of almost 26 per cent overall compares with an increase of 23.8 per cent for students placed on nursing courses for the UK as a whole.

Professor Mark Radford, Chief Nurse, Health Education England, said: “We have worked extremely hard to attract a truly diverse range of people to nursing, and it is wonderful to see this reflected in this year’s record figures.

“To see such a high number of mature students and successful male applicants is testament to this diversity, and extremely encouraging.

“We know more needs to be done to meet the target of 50,000 new nurses set by the government and reinforced in HEE’s new mandate, but we are clearly making good progress.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “In what continues to be such a tough time for all of us in health and care, these numbers today from UCAS offer some real optimism.

“Some of this is undoubtedly down to the huge impression that our professions have made on people this year. They have been seen on the global stage as skilled leaders through the pandemic, and these numbers reflect new respect and understanding of our work and the exceptional careers the nursing professions can offer.

“I am particularly pleased to see such significant increases both from 18-year-olds and the 35 years-plus demographics – proud we continue to grow as one of the most diverse, representative professions in the world.”

Recruitment efforts by HEE include the ‘We are the NHS’ campaign, which HEE has worked on in conjunction with NHS England and NHS Improvement. The campaign aims to encourage school and college leavers and career switchers to consider an NHS career.

The NHS Health Careers website, run by HEE, has seen a sharp surge in interest in nursing careers following the outbreak of COVID-19. There was a 72% increase in interest in training to be a nurse between 23 March 2020 and 20 October 2020, when university Clearing closed.

Applications for university nursing courses have increased significantly since the start of lockdown when compared to the same period last year, indicating that the pandemic has certainly played a part in the rise.

Today’s figures show:-

 • 29,740 new nursing students were placed on English courses in 2020 compared with 23,630 in 2019, up 25.9 per cent. The previous year’s rise was 6.4 per cent.

•There was a 36 per cent rise in placements for male applicants in 2020, from 2170 in 2019 to 2955 this year. The increase compares with a rise of 8.5 per cent the previous year.

•Nursing placements for female applicants rose by 24.8 per cent from 21,460 in 2019 to 26,785 in 2020. This compares with a rise of 6.2 per cent the previous year.

•Placements for applicants aged 20 and under were up from 9,835 in 2019 to 11,570 in 2020, an increase of 17.6 per cent compared with 5.4 per cent the previous year. For 18-year-olds, the figure was 25 per cent.

•The number of 21 to 24-year-olds winning nursing places rose by 19 per cent from 3,670 in 2019 to 4,370 this year. The previous year showed a slight fall of 0.7 per cent.

•In the 25 to 29-year-old age group, the number of placed nursing applicants rose from 3,165 in 2019 to 4,020 this year, up 27 per cent compared with a 6.7 per cent increase the previous year.

•Among 30 to 34-year-olds, there was a 33.9 per cent increase in placed applicants, from 2,245 in 2019 to 3,005 in 2020, compared with a 9 per cent rise the previous year.

•Placed nursing applicants aged 35 and over increased by 43.6 per cent, from 4,715 in 2019 to 6,770 in 2020. That compares with a rise of 13.8 per cent the previous year.

Health Education England is at the forefront of initiatives to bring new and former recruits into nursing via diverse avenues and to develop innovative new nursing careers. You can visit the NHS Health Careers website here:-  https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/we-are-nhs/we-are-nhs?gclid=EAIaIQobChM...