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University hopes to close nursing gender gap with launch of bursary for men

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A university in the Midlands has announced what it believes to be the first financial incentive scheme aimed at encouraging more men to apply for its nursing and midwifery degree courses.

Coventry University said it was “addressing the growing gender imbalance” on nursing and healthcare courses with a new bursary aimed at encouraging men into the field.

“We hope this new initiative will lead the way in addressing the persistent low proportion of men working in many healthcare professions”

Rob James

It has unveiled a £30,000 fund to help 10 men in subjects where the gender is under-represented including nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, midwifery, operating department practice, and dietetics.

The university noted that men accounted for only around 10% of the total nursing students placed at UK universities.

It quoted figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showing that 2,800 men accepted places on nursing courses, compared with 26,000 women last year.

The award, spread across each year of the degree, is believed to be the first created specifically for men taking nursing and healthcare courses in UK higher education.

The funding was won by Coventry following a bid proposal to the National Express Foundation, a charity set up in 2012 by the public transport operator to help disadvantaged young people.

Funded by the National Express Foundation Group, the bursary will give 10 men £1,000 in each year of their degree.

Applications will open to students on applicable courses and applying from the West Midlands from October 2017, said the university.

The announcement of the funding also comes against the background of the end of the national bursary scheme for all student nurses in England, from this month.

Ahead of the scrapping of the bursary for students starting in September, a series of data sets published by UCAS have revealed that the total number of nursing applicants in England fell by 23% this year.

Rob James, academic dean for the university’s faculty of health and life sciences and chair of its Athena SWAN committee for gender equality, said: “We support all initiatives taking positive action to address unequal gender representation in any subject discipline, and this bursary does so across healthcare training.

“While there’s lots being done nationally – and at Coventry – to encourage women into sciences and engineering we hope this new initiative will lead the way in addressing the persistent low proportion of men working in many healthcare professions,” he added.

“For many patients, especially male, to be treated by another man or to see men on the wards can be very important”

Colin Harrison

Colin Harrison, one of just two men in his year on the Learning Disabilities Nursing BSc at Coventry, said tackling stereotypes was the first step to address the balance of men in some healthcare roles.

“Nursing is very much seen as a women’s profession but for many patients, especially male, to be treated by another man or to see men on the wards can be very important,” he said.

“Lots of people talk about getting women into science and technology, but there is very little awareness of the need for the same balance in healthcare and no big campaigns to encourage men into nursing,” he said.

Mr Harrison, 32, suggested that reactions to his chosen career were “very much a generational thing”, which was starting to change.

He added: “There is also a stigma around learning disabilities and mental health that comes from lack of understanding about what we do. But the more we get people talking about this the more easily we can bring about change.”

More women than men accept places on full-time undergraduate nursing degree courses:

  • 2016 – 23,280 more women than men
  • 2015 – 22,285 more women than men
  • 2014 – 22,055 more women than men
  • 2013 – 20,230 more women than men
  • 2012 – 19,475 more women than men

Source: UCAS End of Cycle Data Resources

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Who cares if there's a "gender gap." If I were a patient I'd be more concerned that the nurses looking after me are good at their jobs. The contents of their underwear is irrelevant.
    So the few lucky male students will get a thousand pounds a year on their courses. It wouldn't tempt me in view of the size of the debt accrued over the full course. It's no more than a band aid on a broken back.

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  • Surely this goes against all ideas of equality! Yes, fewer men than women become nurses but this is probably more to do with role stereotypes and poor pay?
    Prospective student nurses of both genders will be put off by whopping student debt on graduation and the prospect of paying back throughout their working lives without ever clearing the debt. Mature students of either sex, and younger applicants without affluent parents to subsidise them, will not be able to afford the luxury of becoming a student without the bursary and we will lose some of the most able and motivated future nurses.

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