Update 08/08/2016: the Government has now published its response to the consultation on implementing the funding reforms. For the latest information see our briefings and our website The Funding Clinic.
A quick health warning: This isn’t official or definitive information but it is our best current understanding of the Government’s proposals in the 2015 Spending Review. Our aim is to help current and prospective students get to grips with the proposed changes to nursing, midwifery and AHP pre-registration education in England announced on 25 November 2015.
From 2017/18, new students on nursing, midwifery and AHP pre-registration courses (which lead on to qualification with one of the health professional regulators) in England will take out maintenance and tuition loans like other students rather than getting an NHS grant.
Which courses does this affect?
This affects courses that lead to professional registration in: nursing (all four fields), midwifery, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, podiatry, radiography, dietetics, orthoptics, operating department practice, and prosthetics/orthotics. It does not affect 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) but are not part of the NHS Bursary system.
If I’m already a student, does it affect me?
No. This change is for new students.
I’m applying for 2016/17, does it affect me?
No. This change will happen from 1 August 2017, i.e. affect the academic year that starts in September 2017.
Does this affect students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
No. This is a decision about higher education funding in England. However, this may prompt debates in the future in the other UK home nations, so it’s worth keeping an eye on it.
What will I get in terms of maintenance support under the loans system?
Under the loans system you would be eligible for a range of means-tested loans, including a specific loan designed to support students on courses that have a longer than average student year. There are also special allowances, for example childcare, adult dependants and parents’ learning allowance. The day to day ‘cash in hand’ is significantly higher under the loans system than the existing grants system. We’ve put the comparison table on student maintenance support and the links to the information as an appendix to this document. We have used the 2016/17 figures for the loans based system even though the new system will not take effect until academic year 2017/18 as this is the most up to date information currently available. In summary, for the maximum maintenance claim under the two systems:
- Students inside London and living away from the parental home: the maximum amount per year would increase from £8750 to £12058 (a 38% increase);
- Students outside of London and living away from the parental home: the maximum amount per year would increase from £6975 to £9256 (a 33% increase);
- Students living in the parental home: the maximum amount per year would increase from £5623 to £7588 (a 35% increase)
What if I’ve already done a degree? Could I take out another loan to do one of these courses?
Under current rules, you can’t usually access the student loans system if you’ve already done a degree at the same level. But we understand that the Government will make these courses exempt from this rule, so in the new system you could access student loans if you want. This is called an equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) exemption.
What about deferrals?
If you apply for a place on a course that starts in 2016/17 but defer for a year to September 2017, our understanding is that you would fall under the new rules, so would be taking out tuition and maintenance loans rather than getting grants. If you defer until January or March 2017 you would be under the current rules.
If you have started your course or start in 2016/17 (i.e. under the current rules) and then have to defer, e.g. for maternity leave, you will not be transferred on to the new rules but will continue under the current system (i.e. grants rather than loans).
What about placement expenses under the new system?
In the current system, there is a system for reimbursing health students’ placement expenses. Our understanding is that this issue is highly likely to be raised in the consultation on implementation of these proposals, so that new students starting in 2017/18 will still be able to claim placement expenses.
Under the new system, what happens when I graduate?
As with other students, if you graduate and earn above a certain amount of money (currently above £21k) you start repaying the loan. This is usually taken out of your pay packet each month. The thresholds and amounts do 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 repay £5.25 per month.
Are there any special funds that I would be able to access to support me study?
Universities and employers sometimes have bursaries available to help students. We’ve called for funding to be allocated by the Department of Health to support the new system, for example financial support for professions that struggle with student recruitment and ‘forgivable loans’. We’ll be continuing to feed this in to Government over the coming months.
Jon Eames, Membership and Communications Officer
Appendix: Student Maintenance Support – the systems compared
NHS Bursary figures: NHS Bursaries Unit