Some 23,000 students snapped up places on nursing courses within a week of their A level results being published, despite recruitment freezes in the NHS.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, just over 11,000 students accepted a place on a nursing degree course and over 12,000 more confirmed places on non-degree nursing programmes.
The rush for nursing training places came in the year nursing courses had the highest number of applicants of any subject. Some 108,000 people applied for nursing degrees and a further 86,000 applied for foundation degrees and other qualifications. This suggests there were almost 10 applicants for every place secured.
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Students without a university place can apply through the clearing process. But the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, Thames Valley University and Southampton University told Nursing Times they had filled their quota of nursing places before clearing began.
Clare Beckett, head of recruitment at Thames Valley University, said she was seeing a different kind of applicant this year: “We’re seeing students applying for our nursing degrees with, for example, very high A level grades and triple BTEC distinctions… This fits with our strategy of moving the sector towards becoming a graduate profession.”
Sue Bernhauser, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said students had turned to nursing as a safe bet in a struggling economy. “You always get more applicants for health courses during a recession,” she said.
She said that, while the freezing of vacancies would be a concern for graduates, in the long term nurse shortages were likely because all healthcare education funding was set to fall by 15 per cent over three years.
Meanwhile, 180,000 nurses will be retiring in the next 10 years, according to a Council of Deans of Health report. Ms Bernhauser said: “I cannot believe that the NHS cannot see that all these nurses are going to be retiring, and they will need replacing.”