Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Plans for new student nurse bursary system revealed


All future nursing and midwifery students look set to be offered a combination of a bursary and a loan, under latest government plans.

However unions have criticised the proposals, warning that students will still be forced to take on extra jobs to support themselves and could be left to pay off massive debts for years.

Department of Health civil servants have recommended to ministers that all students should receive a non-means tested bursary of £1,000 together with a means tested bursary, the value of which will depend on where they live. They will also be offered a reduced rate loan.

It would mean a student on a 30-week course outside of London could receive a maximum of £5,915 in support per year of which £3,591 would come from a combination of bursaries and £2,324 from a loan.

A student in London could receive a total of £7,391, of which £4,128 would come from bursaries and £3,263 from loans.

Meanwhile a student living at home with their parents could receive a total of £4,907, with £3,163 coming from bursaries and £1,744 from loans.

The DH said: “We currently expect that the earliest changes may come into effect is for students entering training from September 2012.”

The changes will replace the current mismatch in the student support system in which diploma students receive a non-means tested bursary and degree students receive a means tested bursary.

It will also end the drawn out process of reform to the bursary system for healthcare students. The need for reform was given added impetus with the move to graduate-only entry to nursing. But there has been little movement over the past 18 months, following a three-month Department of Health consultation on the issue in 2009, which set out 11 possible options. 

The DH has this week published the findings from that consultation together with an impact assessment on the costs of the options for change, including its own preferred option.

The DH report said the two options most preferred by consultation respondents were the system the government wants to introduce – paying a means-tested bursary with a small non-means tested element, together with a non-means tested loan –– or to employ students in the NHS.

Despite its popularity, the government rejected the student employment, as it would cost more than the present system.

Instead it whittled the 11 consultation options down to three final options that “would maintain the average spend on student support at current levels”.

These were to do nothing; to pay all students a combination of non-means tested and means tested bursary, but no loan; or to introduce the bursary and loan combination that was subsequently recommended to ministers.

However the union Unison described government’s plans as “a missed opportunity to improve the financial plight of nursing students”.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “We have long argued that health care student training is different from other academic courses, because they spend so much time on clinical placements. Alongside their studies, they work long days and night and weekend shifts on the wards.

“The average age of a student nurse is 29 and over 40% of them have children or other dependents. Changes to loan repayments system from 2012 will also mean that students start paying back their loans the minute they graduate. We are deeply concerned that this will condemn them into debt for years.”

Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Peter Carter also criticised the government’s chosen option.

He said: “We know that many students are dropping out already due to financial problems, and now that they have added debt we fear that the situation may only get worse.

“We are disappointed that after two years of negotiation, this settlement will not provide a solution for the problems we already have, let alone stave off the problems of the future. Many nursing students will still need to take second and even third jobs just to make ends meet. 

“The combination of a small universal bursary, a small means tested bursary and a small entitlement for a loan means that some students will undoubtedly struggle to make ends meet.”


Readers' comments (9)

  • Shocking! Yet more penny pinching. Why on earth would anybody choose nursing as a career?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • And why on earth would anybody vote tory?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • i know people always say that student nurses have it easy and that it's not like it used to be but this is worrying!! £3.60 an hour is what the bursary in wales works out as. It is going to be even worse with this!! i feel that there are too many "academic" nurses being accepted into university and not enough of us who are willing to roll up our sleves and get dirty. I have a suggestion, how about making it more difficult to get on a nursing degree and stop accepting the airheads and "children" that are somehow making their way into our wards and lecture theatres. I hear the phrase "too posh to wash" so often and as the days go by i see it more and more...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Absolutely agree with P.Damien. Couple this with very few jobs when people qualify, already crap pay and constant threats to increments and pensions, why the hell would anyone want to join our profession? Hello massive shortage in 5 years time!

    Jessica I find your comments extremely insulting, who do you think you are judging us 'academic' Nurses? Who said we are all 'too posh to wash?' I have met a lot of great Nurses, both diploma and degree trained. I have also met a lot of very poor ones, again both degree and diploma trained. So do not start that argument.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Insulting?? I am in a cohort of around 100 student nurses and halfof them are in it because they want an office job! If thats the case they should be on a different course with separate funding. I couldn't give a monkeys whether i gain a degree or not, I am solely concerned with qualifying and that is that! Nursing as a profession is great for morale and empowerment, but isnt nursing really a vocation? i beleive nurses are born to be nurses, and no amount of books and exams can produce a good nurse. You cannot teach people to care by giving them a degree certificate.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I agree Daniel. Nursing IS a vocation, people are born to care. I personally don't want my degree either, just the ability to finish this course and register!! I do not see the relevence about learning how socio-economic status can cause you to have COPD, all I care about is having the ability to care for them and make them comfortable. Getting rid on the diploma is going to breed the wrong type of nurse. This funding should be for training nurses to be nurses, not office workers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thought most nursing courses are a bit longer than 30-weeks/yr. I've not checked, but are there additional payments after week 30?

    Some people have wrong perceptions of what nursing is and what nurses do. Its sad if they joined to become a nurse if they only want to do 'office work'. There's much easier and good degree courses for that.

    What people want is nurses who passionately care about what they do, who are well educated, have excellent clinical skills, so that they know what they are doing, what is right, able to work proactively and independently, who are safe and help colleagues wherever possible.

    Professional vs Vocational, some may have heard voices telling you to go forth, do good and work hard. Even so, people still have to be professional and use evidenced based practices and deliver high standards of care. Education enables you to make informed clinical decisions. Being supported, enable those who learn/develop slower a chance to understand and develop the skills required in modern healthcare.
    Understanding socio-economic (+ psycho) is important and enables you to be a holistic healthcare practitioner. A patient may have worked in a (coal) mine, smoked + drank too much, possibly breathed in loads of other pollutants at work/home, living in damp, crowded conditions, which may have contributed to their COPD. As a nurse, you could be thinking how to prevent future generations from developing COPD by looking at reducing risks/exposures and by improving health promotion/education + prevention and not just to provide care to patients already in the later stages of their illness.
    Yes, books alone may not produce good nurses, good support and training can make better nurses.

    I think this bursary isn't enough to address the problems of funding and student attrition rates, and might cost the NHS more in the medium/long term where they paid for the increased tuition fees as well as not adequately addressing students support. A 'forgivable' loan element, where graduates would have say 20% (of original loan amount) repaid by the NHS for each year working in the NHS, this might also help with staff retention.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Health promotion and education is a fundamental part of nursing, however, it is almost impossible for a nurse to change an individuals behaviour by educating the patient. The root of the behaviour lies within (mostly) social status and social class. It is not the role of a nurse to change this!! A person is more likely to smoke, eat crap and live in damp housing if they are in a low social class, suffering economic difficulty. Simply saying "eat your 5 a day" is not that simple. This is where my argument lies, it is fantastic to educate and empower our patients but if they do not have the resources to act on their new knowledge then nothing will ever change! I am not disputing a good knowledge base is needed to become a holistic practitioner, i am simply saying does it really demand a degree? Many of my family members and also my partners family members are and were amazing nurses, yet they managed to do so without a degree.

    Anyway, back to funding. I suppose I am lucky being welsh as i receive a non-means tested bursary, a measly £550 a month, for in excess of 38 hours a week, both clinical ans study time (yes, reading for a degree takes time). I feel the problem lies with how many students are taken on each year, and why they have actually taken them on. So many of the students in my group are excellent at writing and exams, yet seem to just scrape by doing the bare minimum during placement, and then when they decide that washing and toileting patients isn't for them they leave! It seems the system isnt quite right. I would be more than happy to rely on loans for study period, but actual pay for placement would be nice, as the majority of the time student nurses are not supernumerary, but part of the numbers and counted as a HCA.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am not surprised this has happened. The government would never want to
    employ student nurses.. why should they when they have the free labour supporting
    the UK wards.

    If they took the student nurses away wards would struggle big time! In my 3 years of training there has been countless times where HCA / auxiliaries or even staff nurses have called in sick and they say - oh that’s okay we have student nurses today we don’t need anyone else - so we am left to do there job at a rate of... err £3 or something a hour!

    £550 is NOT enough to live in but due to placements it is very difficult to find a job that works around your shift work.


    As per the "too posh to wash" debate below.. I haven’t observed student nurses being like that often but if they are they are soon told off by the mentor and other members of team.. it is NOT tolerated!

    Nursing has to be more academic, nurses have to understand the rationale behind the care they are providing - many times I have seen Doctors openly shouting at nurses on ward rounds because they didn’t know the physiology of there patients illness and why certain drugs are administered.

    In addition there has always been academic snobby with nurses - as all other healthcare professionals have to have degrees - OT, physiotherapist dietitian etc so why shouldn’t we?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs