A university nursing course launched last year that sees students pay their own tuition fees is to more than quadruple in size in 2017, due to demand from local NHS trusts in the North East.
A total of 23 students started on the adult nursing degree programme at the University of Sunderland when it launched in April 2016.
The trainees pay the annual £9,000 tuition fees themselves and no money has been provided by Health Education England to fund placements with local employers City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside Foundation Trusts.
Instead, the university said it had “entered into financial agreements with the trusts in relation to placement provision”. This arrangement is in contrast to the majority of students in the UK who are in the last year of receiving a bursary.
Following discussions with three more NHS employers, up to 130 more student nurses will begin the course this month – and the university aims to recruit the same number of students again in September 2017.
“We were one of the first universities to go down the non-commissioned [fee-paying] nursing route”
The increased number of placements will be provided by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, and Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The expansion was given the go-ahead following an assessment by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure the programme still met the regulator’s required teaching standards.
Following the government’s decision to scrap bursaries in England, all student nurses starting pre-registration courses across the country from autumn 2017 will have to pay for their own tuition fees and living costs by taking out a loan.
The University of Sunderland confirmed to Nursing Times that it would be charging the maximum of £9,250 annual fees in the coming academic year.
It reiterated that it had “entered into financial agreements” with the five trusts providing placements.
In addition, the university is extending its teaching facilities through a £3.5m refurbishment of its Shackleton House site, which will open in the autumn.
“Students will have more choice on where to do their placement and will benefit from a broader network of colleagues”
The redeveloped Shackleton House will include two mock wards, assessment suites, an industry-standard positive pressure isolation room and a mock patient transfer suite, which will see students practise moving from a functioning ambulance parked outside.
Simone Bedford, principal lecturer in nursing at the University of Sunderland, said: “We were one of the first universities to go down the non-commissioned [fee-paying] nursing route and in under a year we’re unique in the number of partners we now have.
“So, it’s brilliant for the area, and for the students who will have more choice on where to do their placement, and who will benefit from a broader network of colleagues they have trained with – who they will undoubtedly encounter through their career,” she said.
“After several meetings, we were delighted when all the health trusts came on board and said, ‘we really like your programme and can see the benefits of having home-grown nurses to fill the workforce gap’,” she added.
University more than quadruples fee-paying course places