Changes to how certain healthcare courses are funded will disproportionately affect ethnic minority, Muslim, mature and female students.
Starting this year, those wishing to study nursing, midwifery, Allied Health Professional (AHP) or Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) courses will no longer have access to NHS bursaries. Those beginning their course after 1st August this year will instead be required to access the same student loans as other students.
An equality analysis conducted by the Department of Education found these changes to disproportionately affect particular demographics of students. The basis of this is due to these students being particularly “debt averse”.
The effect on participation will be most noted in regards to mature and female students, who make up a majority of health and nursing courses. Mature students, defined as those over 25, make up 40.8% of current nursing, midwifery and allied health profession courses compared with only 18% of students generally.
In recognition of the effect of changes, the government proposed policy to mitigate any impact. “[T]ravel grants, childcare allowances and other provisions” will be provided, as well as legislation introduced to offer alternative student finance “consistent with the principles of Islamic Finance”.
In doing away with the bursary system the government hopes to create more places on these courses.
Dame Prof Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, an organisation representing healthcare faculties, said the increase in places is necessary with currently up to 10 applicants for each of the 20,000 places a year. She does not believe the change to loans will have an impact on the overall number of applicants.
The plans recieved widespread criticism from healthcare organisations when they were first proposed by the then-Chancellor George Osborne.
More than twenty healthcare organisations led by the RCN, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Patients Association, wrote an open letter to then Prime Minister David Cameron warning that these changes would be an “untested gamble”.