Supporting the next generation of NHS staff

Student nursing and midwifery intake to reach record high.

Student nursing and midwifery places will increase for the seventh consecutive year, reaching record levels, with the intake rising by 7.6% to more than 4,000.

As announced by the First Minister in October, all eligible nursing and midwifery students across Scotland will benefit from an increased bursary in 2019/20, rising to £10,000 a year in 2020/21.

Upping intake for the 2019/20 academic year is one of a number of measures to support the sustained recruitment and retention of NHS staff. In addition to the increase in student places, almost 460 former nurses and midwives have signed up to retrain through the Return to Practice programme, since 2015. The Scottish Government is also funding the Open University to deliver a pre-registration programme, currently supporting around 116 nursing students.

Speaking during a visit to Glasgow Caledonian University, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

"Our nurses and midwives are critical to the success of our NHS and will continue to be so. We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings and I want to ensure our NHS is well equipped to continue to provide the best possible care for patients.

"We are determined to ensure we recruit and retain the next generation of staff to meet these needs. That is why we are again increasing nursing and midwifery student intake, with more than 4,000 places available in 2019/20.

"It is also vital we support the nurses and midwives of the future during their education, which is why our bursaries are the best in the UK. By increasing this support, which is non-means tested and non-repayable, to £10,000 by 2020/21 we'll make studying easier for those seeking a rewarding career in our health service."

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Principal Professor Pamela Gillies said:

"We were delighted to welcome Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to our state-of the-art facilities within the School of Health and Life Sciences. 

"As one of the largest providers of nursing education in Scotland, GCU is fully supportive of the Cabinet Secretary's announcement to increase student nursing and midwifery places for 2019/20 and is committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure that the next generation of nurses are provided with the best possible learning and teaching experience, in order to meet the requirements of the health service in the future."

Dr Jacqueline McCallum, Head of GCU's Department of Nursing and Community Health, said:

"We welcome the Scottish Government's further increase in nursing student numbers. We currently have over 1,800 undergraduate nursing students - the second highest intake in Scotland."

Eileen McKenna, Associate Director of Professional Practice at RCN Scotland said:

"This is a much needed increase in the number of student places and we are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns and recognised that Scotland needs more nurses. Demand for health and social care continues to increase, nursing vacancy rates are at an all-time high and a significant number of nurses are reaching an age where they can retire.

"Having the right number of nurses to meet demand is a fundamental step for the safety of patients and in ensuring that nurses are able to remain in the profession."


The largest increases in student uptake will be for midwifery (up 13.7%), mental health nursing (up 16.7%) and learning disability (up 18%).

There were 10,239 students in education in October 2016, an increase from 9,936 at October 2015. The 2017 data will be published in December 2018.

The Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (NMSB) provides financial support to eligible (Scottish domiciled) student nurses and midwives. The core NMSB, which is non-means tested and non-repayable, has been set at £6,578 per year since 2009/10 and is increasing to £8,100 in  2019/20 and to £10,000 in 2020/21.

An additional discretionary fund of at least £1 million was launched in 2016  to provide a 'safety net' for nursing and midwifery students in most need. In 2017/18 we invested an extra £3 million per year to increase support for nursing and midwifery students with children or dependants.


Media enquiries

Back to top