Proposals have recently been published by the Department of Health to cut bursaries for nursing and midwifery students in Northern Ireland. I am worried these cuts could deter many people from studying these courses.
The consultation has proposed that the annual bursary for nursing and midwifery students be reduced by £890 and the one-off book and uniform allowances, totalling £190, be removed.
We all know how vitally important it is that our health system attracts the highest calibre of professionals. If these bursaries were reduced, this could lead to many excellent future students being lost to the profession.
It is ludicrous the Government plans to cut the bursaries for students starting in September, given that they have applied already.
We are also very worried that these proposed cuts will disproportionately affect women, given that a large proportion of nursing students are women.
Also, given that a big proportion of students in nursing are adult/mature learners with familial commitments, this plan will hit many hard-pressed families that are already struggling during the economic downturn. These measures could push many mature students even further into debt.
It is crucial that the Government works to widen participation in higher education. Such a decrease in bursaries would have the opposite effect.
We will strongly oppose these proposals and we are extremely worried that this might signal the start of a series of deeply-troubling cuts to funding for students across the healthcare sector.