Universities in England have continued to fill fewer places on their nursing courses this year compared with the same point in 2016, the latest official data has revealed.
Figures released today show 18,390 nursing students from England have now been placed on an undergraduate programme starting from this autumn.
This represents a 6% drop compared with the same time last year, by which point 19,510 applicants had been placed.
In addition, the number of people aged over 25 who have been placed so far has continued to be lower than last year – by 11%.
The data, being published daily by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), provides an update on how quickly nursing courses are being filled now that they have entered the clearing process.
It indicates there has been little recovery since a week ago when, on A-level results day, 8% fewer students from England had been placed on nursing courses this year compared with the last.
Today’s figures show there are still a further 3,760 students in England with an offer to study nursing and a further 13,270 who may be placed via clearing.
The pool of people available through clearing this year is 40% smaller than the same point last year when there were 22,040 applicants in this group.
This year is the first time student nurses in England will not receive bursaries and instead will have to take out loans for tuition fees and living expenses.
It follows the government’s decision at the end of 2015 to end free education for trainee nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
As previously reported, the number of people in England applying to train as a nurse at university was down by almost a quarter this year.
In prior years government arms-length body Health Education England commissioned around 20,000 pre-registration nurse training places at universities on an annual basis.
The government has claimed the switch to loans will allow 10,000 more student nurses to train by 2020 because university course places will no longer be constrained by the amount of funding available every year.
However unions have warned the prospect of debts would put off many people from training – especially mature students, who are traditionally a group that nursing courses recruit more from compared with other subjects.
Meanwhile, universities have warned the lack of additional funding for clinical placements meant it would be difficult to increase course sizes.
In response, earlier this month the government announced tens of thousands of pounds would be made available to universities and NHS trusts for extra placements in a bid to increase the number of trainee nurses, midwives and AHPs this year.