Changes in healthcare student numbers

There was a change to the funding of pre-registration healthcare university courses in 2017.

The change meant that students received loans through the main student finance system to cover their tuition fees and living costs rather than receiving non-repayable bursaries. Universities also had more flexibility to increase the size of each course.

These pages provide analysis on the short-term effect of these changes on the number and type of students on nursing, midwifery and allied health courses.

Three interactive charts have been produced. Each chart compares the number of undergraduate students starting in 2016-17 and 2017-18. The charts can be filtered by discipline or type of student.

Note that both of these years (2016-17 and 2017-18) are unusual to some extent, which means that care is needed when interpreting the changes. Further details can be found in our summary document.



There was an 11 per cent drop in the number of students starting nursing courses (19,790 down to 17,630). Students aged over 21 dropped by 17 per cent (12,015 down to 9,960).


The number of midwifery entrants increased by 3 per cent (from 2,380 up to 2,460). This was due to an increase of 22 per cent in younger students (875 up to 1,070).

Allied health

There was little overall change in the number of entrants to allied health courses, but some disciplines grew while others shrank. For example, there were 19 per cent more physiotherapy entrants, but 19 per cent fewer podiatry entrants.

Summary of findings

Download a summary of the data

Please note this summary document was updated on 26 September 2019 to remove incorrect numbers relating to operating department practice and on 20 September 2019 to correct two numbers in the executive summary.

Download a description of the method and population used

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