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Reform of support for healthcare students in England

Published Thursday, November 3, 2016

This note explains the changes to funding for students on NHS funded courses in England, that lead to professional registration as nurses, midwives, or other allied health professionals as announced in the Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. From August 2017 NHS bursaries which provide tuition fee funding, grants and living cost support, will largely be replaced by funding through the standard student support package of loans. The paper provides background to the changes.

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Current financial support and plans for reform

Currently students accepted on an NHS-funded course in England that leads to professional registration as a nurse, midwife or other allied health professional are usually eligible for an NHS Bursary to help with the costs of studying.

For new full-time students starting in 2016-17 the NHS Bursary consists of the following elements:

  • A non-means tested grant of £1,000 per year (pro-rata for part-time students)
  • A means tested bursary to help with living costs of up to: 
    • £3,191 for students living away from home and in London
    • £2,643 for students living away from home and outside London
    • £2,207 for students living at home.
  • Other bursary elements such as extra week’s allowances for courses that run for longer than 30 weeks and 3 days each academic year, and practice placement expenses.

Students who qualify for a bursary also have the costs of their tuition paid directly to their higher education institution by the NHS.  Healthcare students may also apply for a non-income assessed reduced rate maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

This briefing applies to the Bursary Scheme in place for eligible students studying in England. Students ordinarily resident in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are studying in England may be eligible for a bursary under this scheme.  Different schemes are in place for students studying in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Withdrawal of bursary for new students starting in England in September 2017 – nursing, midwifery and allied health professions

From August 2017, new students on most nursing, midwifery and allied health professions pre-registration courses will not be entitled to an NHS Bursary. Instead, they will be able to apply for mainstream student finance in the form of repayable student loans. Some additional funding and transitional bursary funding will be made available to particular groups.

The changes will only affect new students; they will not apply retrospectively to those who began their course in 2016 or earlier.

The Government has said it expects the reform to provide up to 10,000 additional nursing and health professional training places over the course of this Parliament; it has also said that the cap on the number of student places for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions will be removed.

The reforms were originally announced in the Autumn Statement 2015. The Government consulted on the proposals between April and June 2016, and published its consultation response in July 2016.

These changes will not apply to NHS bursaries for medical and dental students.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7436

Authors: David Foster; Paul Bolton; Susan Hubble

Topics: Higher education, Students

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