A group of students from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery at King’s College London met with prime minister Gordon Brown last week.
They told NT they had expressed concern that the current system was preventing many people joining the profession, and diploma graduates from attaining degree-level qualifications.
Bursaries for diploma students in England are not means tested but bursaries for degree level students are. This is at odds with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, where degree students are not means tested.
Louise Reynolds, a third-year diploma student at the college, said she would have to take out a student loan to join a degree programme. ‘If I wanted to join the degree programme I will be £4,000 worse off – with the cost of living in London it will be impossible to live on £3,000 a year,’ she told NT.
‘He [Mr Brown] said he would take it up with the higher education minister,’ she said.
Angelina Kennedy, a second-year pre-registration adult nursing student at the college, added: ‘He seemed interested and said there will be a review.’
A Unison survey found the average nursing student was in debt by £7,000, with some in the red by up to £25,000 (NT News, 8 January, p5).
Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said: ‘The means-tested bursary system is a perverse disincentive for nurses to take a degree.’
RCN student adviser Gill Robertson added students were not always able to work. ‘Many can’t work over holidays because they are on placements – they are unique,’ she said.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said Mr Brown would be looking into the matter.