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RCN report on fall in nursing degree applications

5 February 2018

Universities UK has welcomed the publication of the Royal College of Nursing's policy report Left to chance: the health and care nursing workforce supply in England.


The report looks at the challenges facing the health and care workforce – with 42,000 vacancies across nursing, low morale and poor staff retention – and focuses on the vulnerability of the  supply of graduate nurses. The report includes new figures from UCAS which show the current number of applications for the next academic year (2018-19) has fallen by a third since the same point in 2016, and by 13% since last year.

Responding to the publication, Professor Alistair Fitt, Chair of Universities UK's Health Education and Research Network and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said:

"No-one should underestimate the scale and com​​​​plexity of the health workforce challenge, nor imagine that there are simple answers. 

"Last year, universities worked hard to translate a 23% decrease in applications into a 6% decrease in acceptances. This year's further dip in applications suggests that government must act decisively to make these courses and careers more attractive to potential applicants.

"The Department of Health and Social Care, working with Health Education England and higher education government bodies, must commit to a sustained communications campaign to promote these courses and careers. 

"This must rest on a clear narrative that undergraduate and postgraduate preregistration courses are the main routes into the nursing profession. Nursing degree apprenticeships remain too complicated and expensive for employers.

"At the same time as assuring the supply of graduate nurses, government must concern itself with the engagement, skills and transformation of existing staff and should reinvest in Continuing Professional Development.

"Finally, policy interventions must sit within a credible national workforce strategy with clear lines of accountability and effective national and local workforce intelligence in support."


  1. Universities UK commented on today's latest UCAS undergraduate application figures for 2018. Please see the media release

Key Contacts

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK


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