BURSARY SUPPORT PAGE: Returning Students Advice page for students impacted by the bursary changes for students who have to re-sit or take a year out

Recently you will have received an email from the University to inform you that Health Education England (HEE) have announced, that there will be no more bursary funding for students who have had to step off the course and take a year out. The only exception to this is for students that have "exceptional circumstances, such as illness or maternity leave". This also means any current bursary receiving students who fail and need to resit their current year, will loose their bursary support and have to start paying fees.

As of yet there is no information available for students who have had to delay their course due to other reasons, such as needing to repeat exams or because of financial issues. So how did this happen? What's being done about it? What does this mean for you? And what should you do now?

Here's an MDX-NSOC guide for Middlesex Students affected by this situation

How did we get here? I dunno?

Since the Government confirmed that bursaries for nursing students would be cut in 2017, we have been lobbying hard to challenge this decision on both local and national forums. We all knew at the time that these cuts were not for us current students, but for the next generation. We all stood together with the unions, the universities, and nurses from across the country, in support of the future of our profession.

We knew we were "safe", but we were fighting for the future generation of students

There was however a gap in the decision to end bursaries, what would happen to those bursary receiving students who needed to take a year out for whatever reason? Would their bursary be re-instated the following year? Everyone assumed it would, the students certainly did. If you started your training on a bursary, you would expect to finish on it

We recognise that having to take on more debt that you were not expecting, is just not feasible when you have families, jobs, mortgages and other commitments. Nursing wages are not at a level where taking even more from your monthly wages once qualified is acceptable.

So what is being done about it?

The first time students became aware that this may not be the case was in an email from the University to explain what HEE have said so far. The University wished to keep students up -to-date with as much information as they had. This was also the first time MDX-NSOC became aware of this, and we immediately contacted our Dean and heads of department at Middlesex to ask for more information. The University responded swiftly and explained that this is a matter of concern not only to them, but to many Universities across England, and so the Council of Deans have come together to ask for clarification from HEE about students waiting to re-join their course. We at MDX-NSOC have also contacted HEE to ask for the same, and explained the reasons we felt it would be wrong to not provide these students with continued funding.

MDX-NSOC attends events relating to the development of the profession, this allows us to be more engaged with changes that will impact our students

Last May HEE and the NMC held an event to discuss the future of the nursing workforce. The room was full of different stakeholders including senior nursing leaders, commissioners, educators, grassroots staff and educators ... and MDX-NSOC. We sat and listened carefully as our future was being discussed. Thankfully it was recorded and the video is attached below.

Skip forward on the above video to 1:08:30 and you will hear Lord Willis, the author of the Raising the Bar report, telling the audience that "it is not dirty to talk about money" in relation to investing in the training of our workforce. And so here we are, united with our students, in talking about money.

If HEE agree with and support Lord Willis and his report which recommends:

"HEE should ensure that the funding for ongoing learning ... for care assistants and nurses becomes more transparent across the system."

Then why are we hearing about the funding cuts to our students from our University first? Why is it not being broadcast and debated openly with student engagement? It would be cheaper to continue funding these students, than to have potentially wasted two years worth of public money on them, to effectively not produce any nurse, because of this decision to not continue supporting them. It also has the potential to have wasted two years of these students lives, if they are unable to take on additional debt to complete their training. We believe it is morally wrong to move the goal posts for these students education whilst they are still being trained.

If this statement is true, then the future does not bode well if we plan to leave some of our students behind

HEE's current response to us and other stakeholders is that they themselves recognise there needs to be "clarification"

"As you say the Council of Deans has raised this issue and we have discussed it with them. We recognise that further clarification is required. This will be issued in due course and I will ensure that you are kept informed." Email from HEE to MDX-NSOC on the 9th March 2017

What does this mean for you?

At the moment HEE have said that students who have had to step off and are returning to their course this year, will have to pay fees, they will be able to access an additional student loan to cover these costs. The only exceptions to this are for people who stepped off to take maternity leave, or because of an illness. These people will be addressed on a case by case basis. No further information has been given, and we are all awaiting "clarification" to tell us more.

What should you do now?

At the moment you are advised to:

  • APPLY FOR YOUR BURSARY AS NORMAL
  • Contact your programme leader at MDX, and inform them that this affects you, and how these changes will impact on your education and life. Your Programme Leader should keep you updated as they find out more information
  • If you are a member of a Union, you should contact them to ask for support. This is important to ensure this is raised as an issue that needs to be addressed. The RCN can be contacted here
  • Contact your local MP and let them know that this is happening, and how it is going to affect you. Ask that they support you and your colleagues in ensuring your bursary is protected

MDX-NSOC is a student nursing society here to make sure that our voices are heard when decisions about us are being made. We fully believe students who started on a bursary should end their course with that bursary. We've heard your concerns and want to ensure you are kept up-to-date with any changes that happen, and that you are equipped with the information you need to get the appropriate support.

Your society, here for you

UPDATE: as of the 29/03/2017 HEE have responded to our requests to say that they have still not yet made a decision

We are continuing to work on this and I will let you know the outcome as soon as it is available - Health Education England

29/04/2017: UPDATE: Another month on and HEE still have not made a decision. However MP Emily Thornberry has responded to our requests for support, and has agreed this matter needs clarification. She has written in support of our case to MP Philip Dunne Minister of State for Health to ask for clarification

10/05/2017: Due to the political "Purdah" or silencing of public bodies during an election campaign, and because parliament has now been dissolved, a decision on your bursaries will now have to wait until a new government is formed after the general election. The Department of Health have responded directly to inform us of this.

Letter from Department of Health

The University has said they are currently securing all potentially returning students placements for the coming year. This is because if your bursary's are granted, then they will need to ensure you have placements. However as of yesterday they had still heard nothing more about it from HEE.

The Dean Jan Williams yesterday assured MDX-NSOC that the University was ready to support students to return as best they can, however until they know what is happening, "we are all limited in what we can do".

The General Election is coming and I would STRONGLY urge you all to ensure you vote for candidates you feel will back your cause. The RCN has released it's General Election Manifesto which lists cases it feels are important to nursing, which may also help you when deciding on who you wish to vote for. DO NOT LET YOUR VOICE GO UNHEARD! Click below to register to vote in the general election.

12/05/2017: The Head of education and training at HEE, Sue Ambler, has today confirmed that due to the restrictions on government bodies during election times they are unable to fully respond to student concerns however, she did say:

we are continuing to work with the HEI's (Universities) and the NHS BSA Bursary team to handle individual cases where students are seeking to re-join or temporarily leave programmes for reasons that are not set out in guidance already produced on government web sites. So despite the election individual students will be dealt with in the coming weeks.

MDX-NSOC have also been in touch with the RCN regarding this issue. The RCN has responded to say that the head of RCN London, and the RCN Director for England have had this issue escalated to them.

WHAT NOW? Ensure that you have all your contact details up-to-date on your NHS Bursary BOSS account and that you're applications have been submitted.

Also let us know if you have been contacted by either the NHS Bursary team or HEE to discuss your bursary by emailing us on JL1024@live.mdx.ac.uk so that we know if your funding to return to University is being dealt with.

STILL NO DECISION FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

UPDATE: 27/07/2017

Despite HEE pressing the Department of Health hard for an answer about continued bursary funding for returning students, there is still no final decision. The University now requires ALL AFFECTED STUDENTS to inform their programme leaders of their intention to return to University to continue their degree this September. Doing so will ensure you are updated about the funding application the University will be submitting FOR YOU.

If funding is rejected you will be able to make an application for a student loan to cover the full academic fees for the remainder of your course.

What do I do now?

E-mail / respond to your programme leader, and inform them as to wether or not you will be returning this September. Your programme leader will then be responsible for informing you about wether or not your funding application is successful once the Department of Health makes a decision about continuing to fund students in your situation.

What if my application is UNSUCCESSFUL and I'm told i need to get a loan?

Although we all think it is unacceptable for the Government to not continue to fund you, if this becomes the case then the student loan facility will be made open to you, even if you have previous student loan debts. IF YOU ARE TOLD YOU NEED TO APPLY FOR A LOAN: then the link to do so is here:

There is also support from the University which is accessible to you through the Student Welfare and Advice Team (SWAT)

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