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Student bursary consultation launched by unions


Unions have launched a consultation on the government’s latest proposals for reform of the bursary system that will offer healthcare students a minimum of £3,324 a year.

As reported last week, the Department of Health has shown unions fresh proposals for bursary reform, 18 months after a consultation on the same issue by the previous government.

Due to the lack of a formal DH consultation on the new proposals, unions have launched their own which they intend to feedback to ministers.

Two options are being considered:


Option 1 combines a non means-tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a student loan.
Most students would receive a non means-tested bursary of £1,000 plus a student loan of £2,324 per year – rates would be higher for those studying in London and lower for those living at home and in their final year of study.
Students on lower incomes would also be able to receive a means-tested bursary of up to £2,591 per year.
The minimum cash in hand would be £3,324, rising to £7,719 for the least well off students on 52 week courses such as nursing. Students could have a loan debt of £6,500 over three years.


Option 2 combines a non means-tested bursary and a means-tested bursary
Most students would receive a non means-tested bursary of £3,324 per year – rates would be higher for those studying in London and lower for those living at home and in their final year of study.
Students on lower incomes would also be able to receive a means-tested bursary of up to £1,429 per year.
The minimum cash in hand would be £3,324, rising to £6,557 for the least well off students on 52 week courses such as nursing. There would be no student loan debt.


Current system:
Degree students are able to apply for a student loan of £2,324 and a means-tested bursary of up to £2,810 per year, depending on income
Diploma students – studying outside London – receive a single non means-tested bursary of £6,701


Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “It is important that our members are consulted on these revised options as they differ from the ones originally put to students. In addition, in the past two years the financial landscape has changed significantly.

“Students are now graduating with ever increasing amounts of debt. This will only become worse given the change to student loans which come into effect next year.

“There has already been extensive discussion and consultation on this matter. We want to be assured that following our consultation, there will be an urgent announcement about the final deal. The Treasury must make sure a decision is taken speedily.”

The consultation, which is being hosted on the Nation Union of Students’ website, will close on 3 May.


Readers' comments (10)

  • I think we need to be a bit careful here. If you take a look at the NHS careers website, you can see that its not only nursing students who are eligible for a bursary at the moment. However, if you read the small print it becomes obvious that most degree students have their "fees" paid by the NHS bursary and little else as its all means tested. With university fees set to rise to around 7-9K a year for most university courses, how long before the powers that be say that the function of the bursary will simply be to pay these fees and nothing more, or even worse, that it will go partway towards paying the fees and students will have to stump up the rest themselves (as most other students are already having to do once the course is complete). With the NHS being the largest employer of all nursing/medic/allied profs, its not yet at the point where education is being fragmented. However, how long before cash-strapped acute trusts and universities realise that this is yet another way of getting money? It could become quite alot more complex in terms of who gets paid for what. There is a reason why US education of nurses etc costs so much...

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  • To use a phrase oft overused by the banks in excuse of their million pound bonuses 'pay the right level of money, or you'll lose all the best talent'.

    How the hell do they expect people to live on this pathetic bursary? Why should they sacrifice and struggle when at the end of it there is no guarantee of a job, no decent wage that reflects our highly educated/skilled status, pay cuts, threatened loss of increments/pensions, etc.

    And they wonder why there is such a brain drain of talent in this country!!!

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  • I don't think the idea is that you live on this amount of money but subsidises what you can earn doing bank or agency work whilst studying.

    I qualified 15 years ago and the bursary was £4,360 so I am surprised that as the cost of living has risen the bursary has fallen. As dino-nurse points out nurses are not the only students to receive a bursay, but student nurses are usually expected to work nights and weekends too unlike most other professions also in University.

    The original idea of the P2K was designed that you could work shifts and study at the same time, but this seems to have fallen flat on it's face in place of more theory and assignments to develop a degree nurse rather than a practical nurse. The amount of students who now come into practice stating that they don't change beds or do washes is on the increase, so with this is mind prehaps the pay they receive is equal to what they require.

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  • I was a degree student and finished 6 years ago. I had a means tested bursery which gave me £200/month and a student loan of £350/term. My rent was £280/month so it didn't take long before my money ran out. You couldn't win from either side student loans would only give you basic due to means testing and the bursery would only give you basic because I was doing a degree.

    Something needs to change to try and make it fair for all, however it is an interesting point of how long can university fees be paid for nursing students if they rise to the maximum level?

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  • Anonymous | 8-Apr-2011 1:41 pm I see your point about the bursary being there to supplement income, but I remember my time as a student, and I remember the full time working hours on placement and the lectures/essays/study on top of that. There was actually very little time left after doing all that to do any paid shifts. I had to of course, just as we all did, since bills had to be paid; but that meant doing 60 - 70 hours a week every week and it WAS to the detriment of my studies.

    I think when we talk about bursaries and student fees, we must remember that Nursing is a vital profession to the country. It is not like most other degrees, it is one of those public service professions that the country cannot do without (Teaching, Paramedical, Police, Military, etc), and it is in this country's best interests to nurture these professions and foster the best personell. Nor is it one of those degrees such as Law or Medicine where the financial rewards of the profession outweigh any sacrifice and cost to study. In that respect, I think student Nurses should not have to pay fees, regardless of how much the universities raise them to (after all the Government only has itself to blame for that one, and perhaps NHS fees should be capped anyway) and they SHOULD be paid a wage/bursary/salary (whatever you wish to call it) that at least compares to a minimum wage salary just so we can afford to pay bills and do little things like eat!

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  • Unless we maintain a Bursary that provides nursing students with more than other standard courses in the UK, we cannot expect them to work the standard off-duty of a Staff Nurse.

    Many students get up a ridiculous hours on weekends to try and get into the hospital for early starts, due to a lack of public transport. Sometimes using taxis at an extra cost to themselves.

    In Scotland, we receive a a non-means tested bursary for both Diploma & Degree. The non-means tested bursary should be rolled out across the UK for all pre-reg nursing students.

    Alternatively, students should be paid a means tested bursary for their weeks in university each year and a Band 2 wage for their clinical hours - approx 24 weeks a year. This would reward Student Nurses for the valuable contribution they make to busy and short staffed clinical areas.

    Last week our department would have been a disaster without Student Nurses - not compromising their Supernumerary status but taking on some of the Staff Nurses roles as part of their learning.

    Topping -up income with bank shifts is an excellent way of keeping afloat during nurse training. However, many students I speak to now cannot get onto the Nurse Bank as they have stopped recruitment and very few part-time jobs allow for the flexibility required during clinical placements.
    I spoke to a girl who has taken 6 month off the course to work full-time until the Nurse Bank opens up recruitment again.

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  • I absolutely agree with Mike(8/04)- Nursing is an essential service and the training should be properly funded -by the Government. As I understand it nurses are paid less than teachers and other equivalent professions (certainly on a basic grade), but have a huge amount of responsibility, in that lives are in their hands very often, with very little support or thanks and hammered into the ground if they make a mistake.
    Nursing used to be considered to be a vocation. Students were trained at the expense of government and paid a small amount and given subsidised accommodation while they trained. Yes the world has moved on from that time,but with all the different initiatives brought in and changes made to nurse training one has to question whether those qualifying today are a better standard of nurse

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  • They also seem to have forgotten that the average age of a student nurse is 29 - and many have families/dependents. Very few are actually 18 and still living at home or being supported by their parents.

    It is also pointless to compare their studies to other degrees and question whether they are deserving of the extra money, when the clinical hours they must put in, make it virtually impossible to find the time to do paid work.

    The two options are not feasible, because if the average student nurse can't live on the bursary, they won't start the course and in the long term, this country will be left with a chronic shortage of staff.

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  • I am currently a 2nd yr student nurse, who is hugely struggling on the bursary. We get £548 a month, by the time I have paid my £400 rent, £70 bills, I am left with little for food a month and have to find extra cash for travel expenses and books which are required for university. The bursary is not by any means liveable especially in a city. Due to the low job market, inflexibility of available jobs I am struggling to find work, also staff bank are not taking on (I have rang them four times in the past 2months). It is extrememly frustrating, there are a huge amount of people who drop out of the course due to the money being too low and I'm afraid to say I have asked myself countless times "why, am I doing this course?" to which the answer is "it will be worth it in the end, I enjoy caring for people. The job itself is a worthwhile one" but until I qualify I will continue having sleepless nights and pulling my hair out over the ever increasing debt I am getting myself into and the little help and advice we receive (just very thankful we do not have to pay council tax).

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  • I too am a second year student nurse and am beginning to question my reasons for wanting to become a nurse (it certainly isn't for the salary i will be in receipt of once qualified). Times are hard, i live alone and the bursary I receive just about covers my rent and a few bills. This does not take into consideration essentials like feeding myself hence my debt building up fast!!! I was quite annoyed as i has been misled about grants etc i would be eligible for before commencing the course. Had i have known what i know now i definately would have thought twice!! Just to throw into the mix, i am 18 months into training and have struggled to find bank work to subsidise my bursary. I have been rather unlucky with knowing my offduty too far in advance, and i go as far as saying only 2-3 days in advance sometimes. I cant possibly find work in that respect whilst making the course my main priority. That said we were actually informed how it is seen to be a disciplinary offence working too many hours outside of the course, as it is seen as detrimental to studies and to patients in our care. Something definately needs to change, just not sure what

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