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MINISTERS quietly admitted today that scrapping nursing bursaries has “entrenched inequality” for women, ethnic minority applicants and mature students.
The Department for Education’s equality analysis on the effect of higher education student finance found that scrapping the grants — and replacing them with £9,000-a-year fees — has discouraged people from studying nursing because they would have to take out student loans to cover tuition and the cost of living.
It follows a similarly fanfare-free announcement on Friday that the government will abolish NHS bursaries for postgraduate students.
Labour said it would force a Commons vote on the new bursary regulations that compound the problem of a critical shortage of nurses working in the NHS.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The decision to scrap NHS bursaries has already proved to be regressive and short-sighted, contributing to a recruitment crisis in our NHS.
“Now we have further proof that this government is entrenching inequality and disadvantage.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The NHS is suffering from severe understaffing and the government has failed to ensure we have the numbers of nurses and midwives needed to provide the quality of care patients deserve.
“Scrapping the NHS bursary will only deepen the crisis our NHS faces and Labour will fight this damaging cut every step of the way.”
The Department for Education admitted that women, black and minority ethnic and mature students are most likely to be affected by the decision to scrap bursaries.
They were more likely to be debt-averse, meaning that the change to loans makes them less likely to apply to study nursing.
The number of applicants for nursing courses has fallen by over 15,000 in the period since the bursary ended, data from university application body Ucas shows.
Ms Rayner pledged: “The next Labour government will ensure that our NHS gets the staff that it needs, and that every person who wants to can access higher education, by scrapping tuition fees and bringing back bursaries for nursing students.”
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