From September 2017, student nurses in England will no longer get a bursary and will have to pay tuition fees, according to government proposals. This could dramatically change the way student nurses think about their finances while studying for their professional qualifications. So how significant will this be and what student loan options are open to new student nurses from next year?
Who is affected?
The proposed changes apply to new students on nursing, midwifery and AHP pre-registration courses (which lead on to qualification with one of the health professional regulators).
The new funding system will apply to anyone studying a course that leads to a professional registration in:
- Occupational therapy,
- Speech and language therapy
- Operating department practice
It won’t impact funding for paramedic courses, which are currently on a mixed funding model (some self-funded, some funded by Ambulance Trusts and some by Health Education England) and are not part of the NHS Bursary system. It also won’t impact anyone currently studying. If you’re already a student nurse you’ll continue to get your fees paid for and receive the means-tested bursary. And it won’t apply to student nurses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
How much will student nurses be able to borrow?
The new system will work very much like the current government loan scheme does for the mass majority of undergraduate courses. You’ll be able to get a loan to pay your tuition fees, which are paid directly to the university, and you can apply for a maintenance loan. The yearly amounts you can borrow will actually be a bit higher than the current limits for undergrads too.
- Students inside London and living away from the parental home: up to £12058
- Students outside of London and living away from the parental home: up to £9256
- Students living in the parental home: up to £7588
Another change worth noting here is that student loans are paid three times a year, at the start of each academic term, as opposed to NHS bursaries, which are paid monthly.
Depending on your circumstances, this may or may not be enough to see you through uni. The average age of a student nurse is 29 according to stats from the Royal College of Nursing. Some of those will have children or parents to look after so their financial needs could be greater than your typical undergrad student.
For anyone looking to become a student nurse from next year we’d always recommend you take advantage of the government loans on offer first and foremost. The terms are generally excellent and better than what you can find in the commercial loans market. But if the maximum lending amounts from the government schemes aren’t enough, we believe we’re a great option to help you pay your way through uni and progress to the career you really want.
As with the standard undergrad system, if you graduate and earn above a certain amount of money, currently £21k per year, you’ll start repaying your government student loan. The salary thresholds and amounts can change according to government policy but as an indication, at the moment on a Band 5 salary in the NHS of £21.7k (the usual starting salary for new nurses, midwives or AHPs) you would be repaying £5.25 per month.
Supply and demand
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the proposed funding changes. UNISON have been particularly vocal in highlighting the financial difficulties this could place on aspiring nurses.
As with any higher education course, there’s always a need to carefully consider the financial implications as well as your suitability. But we believe nursing will continue to be a profession in high demand for the simple reason that it provides so many rare and wonderful career opportunities: It brings a special kind of nobility in that you are genuinely helping and caring for others; you can apply for a job almost anywhere in the world with a good nursing qualification; and there is the potential for great variety and diversity in what you do every day.
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