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Reduction in tuition fees will not benefit majority of nurses, says RCN

Friday 31st May 2019
The RCN has responded to the government’s review of higher education, stating that most nurses will be no better off as a result of proposed changes.
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The UK government has recently produced an independent report of post-18 education and funding in England, and one of the recommendations that has come out of it is to reduce yearly tuition fees from £9,250 to £7,500. While this might seem like a good deal for young people looking to become nurses, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has pointed out some flaws in this proposal.

The focus of the RCN has been on getting more people to join the nursing profession, with applications to nursing degrees falling by around a third since the government announced it was getting rid of the bursaries these students were eligible for back in 2016. It stated that the proposed changes would not do enough - if anything - to rectify this situation.

Part of the problem is that the repayment period for student loans could be increased from 30 to 40 years. Based on the expected income of most nurses, this could result in them paying more over their lifetimes, even with the tuition fees being reduced to £7,500 per year. This decrease in the cost of a degree would only benefit the highest-earning nurses.

One area on which the RCN agrees with the government is the reintroduction of maintenance grants for students from low-income households. Prospective nurses from families with an income of below £25,000 per year would be eligible for a yearly grant of £3,000. The government also wants to better target this funding.

However, with future nurses being faced with the prospect of still paying back their loans 40 years after graduating, the RCN worries this will not help bring more people from a range of backgrounds into the profession. 

Bronagh Scott, the organisation’s director of nursing policy and practice, said: “While a portion of nursing students might be reassured to see they could qualify for more financial support, it’s hard to see how this would boost the number of people who study nursing. 

“A nursing degree is a course like no other and the next generation of nurses need tailored assistance to encourage them to start courses and enable them to keep studying.”

Written by James Puckle

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