‘Heartening to see’ - report reveals a significant rise in the number of people applying to study nursing

The number of 18 year-olds in England choosing to train as a nurse increased by nearly 40 per cent last year

The COVID-19 pandemic has ‘inspired’ many young people to take up a career in nursing, a report has found.

The UCAS report, published last week, revealed that a record number of 18 year-olds applied to study nursing in 2021.

It has also shown that the pandemic was a major factor in many people’s decisions to apply.

This has been accompanied by an overall rise in the number of nursing applicants across all ages, with a record 28,815 choosing a nursing course in England as their first choice through UCAS.

The number of 18-year-olds choosing to study nursing has increased by 38%, to reach 7,105, since 2019.

This led to a 43% increase in the number with a confirmed place to 6,510 students. This significant growth came as the UK’s overall 18 year old population rose by just 2% during the same time.

The demand from mature applicants, those aged 21 and over, also remains strong, with the number of applicants choosing nursing as their first choice up over a third (+34%) since 2019 to reach 17,415.

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant said: “It is incredibly heartening to see that one of the positive legacies of the work of our incredible healthcare workers during the pandemic is that more of our young people have been inspired to enter the nursing profession, particularly when they are arguably the ones who have been most impacted, both in terms of their education and way of life.

“This, coupled with a continuing strong demand from mature applicants, and a surge in interest for information on nursing associates and degree apprenticeships via UCAS’ apprenticeship platform CareerFinder has resulted in record numbers of students embarking on their individual journeys to become a nurse in England since the pandemic began.

“As we approach the deadline for applications for 2022 entry (26 January), we can expect that this wave of increased demand for nursing education and training opportunities will show no signs of waning.”

Dr Ruth May, chief nursing officer for NHS England, said: “The last couple of years, difficult as they have been, have shone a spotlight on the value of our nursing profession and the rewarding careers on offer in every corner of the NHS.

“We are thrilled to see tens of thousands of applications – and a record number of acceptances – to study nursing and are delighted by the contribution of the close partnership between UCAS and our ‘We are the NHS’ recruitment campaign to these results.”

Health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “I’m thrilled that a record number of 18-year-olds applied to study careers in nursing in 2021, with the extraordinary achievements of staff during the pandemic inspiring a new generation to become the future of our health and care services.

“We are on track to recruit 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament and we are supporting all eligible nursing students with a training grant worth at least £5,000 a year.

“I urge anyone who wants a fulfilling career in the NHS to apply next year.”