Government must cover nursing degree tuition fees following pandemic, says RCN

By agency reporter
June 2, 2020

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has reiterated its call for the Government to review funding arrangements for all nursing students in England, which it says has been given added impetus by the vital work student nurses across the UK are doing to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The College argues that all current nursing students should have their tuition fees for the current academic year reimbursed and repeats its call for the fees for future students to be covered by the Government. Final year nursing students were invited in March to go into full-time nursing placements for the final six months of their degrees in order to aid the fight against the pandemic. 

The RCN’s call follows a commitment made by the Prime Minister at the Commons Liaison Committee to write to the Chair of the Education Select Committee, in response to calls from senior MPs to review the funding arrangements for nursing students. 

The RCN, together with the Royal College of Midwives, National Union of Students and Unison, wrote to the Health and Social Care Secretary last month, demanding that the Government in England:

  • Reimburse tuition fees, or forgive current debt, for all current nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare students in the light of the demands of the pandemic 
  • Abolish student-funded tuition fees for all future nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare students starting in 2020/21 and beyond, in recognition that they will be supporting vital public services
  • Introduce universal cost of living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need.

The College has not yet received a response to its letter. With over 40,000 nursing vacancies prior to the COVID-19 crisis in the NHS in England alone, the RCN argues that the crisis in nurse staffing cannot be tackled without reversing the decline in the numbers taking nursing degrees.

Mike Adams, Royal College of Nursing Director for England said: "The vital work student nurses have been doing throughout the pandemic has demonstrated the huge contribution nursing undergraduates make to our health and care services – neither they nor future students should have to pay tuition fees to do this.

"The Government must do all it can to ensure that anyone who wants to study to become a nurse is able to do so. No-one should feel they can’t become a nurse because they can’t afford it.

"The NHS entered the COVID-19 crisis with almost 40,000 unfilled nursing posts in England alone – effectively with one arm tied behind its back. Only by increasing the number of student nurses will we be able to provide safe and effective care for all”.

Chair of the RCN Students Committee, Jessica Sainsbury, added: “It’s high time the Government got behind student nurses by providing full tuition fee support and maintenance grants covering the true cost of living for all nursing students in England, both now and in the future. Any student who is in debt due to their nursing education should have their debt dropped.”

* Download the letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary here

* Royal College of Nursing https://www.rcn.org.uk/

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