Healthcare undergraduate courses see dip in applications following removal of NHS bursary

Healthcare undergraduate courses see dip in applications following removal of NHS bursary

27 February 2017

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is concerned to note that applications for healthcare undergraduate positions at English universities have seen a significant fall for the academic year 2017/18, with subjects allied to medicine seeing a 17% fall on the 2016/17 cycle1.

Anecdotal evidence from universities indicates this broad downward trend is also reflected in dietetic courses specifically. This follows the Westminster Government’s decision to scrap the NHS bursary for all AHPs and Nursing degrees in England.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,500 members.

Although at this stage it appears that there will be sufficient applicants to fill all spaces on dietetic courses, this could be the beginning of a worrying trend, despite the desperate need for more qualified nurses and allied health professionals. Dietitians are of critical importance to the NHS, public health sector, social care and beyond, and there are already a lack of skilled dietitians to fill job vacancies in parts of the NHS. 

BDA Chief Executive Andy Burman said: “Although universities are expecting to fill their spaces this year, it is concerning to see such a significant impact on student numbers in just one year. The BDA is worried that this drop may particularly reflect a reduction in the number of applicants from groups which are typically unrepresented in higher education such as BME students or those from more deprived backgrounds, as well as mature students, who are put off by the introduction of significant fees and the debt burden that this entails.

“Dietetic courses are also generally quite small and there is a risk that if numbers decline further in future years, universities will be unable or unwilling to sustain them. The BDA will continue to monitor the situation closely, and highlight our concerns to government to ensure the quality and quantity of dietetic graduates are maintained and preferably improved.”

In Wales, where the Assembly government has protected funding but introduced a two-year residency requirement, numbers for subjects allied to medicine have fallen 13%. Meanwhile in Scotland, where Scottish students continue to receive the NHS bursary, applications have dropped by only 3%, which reflects fairly steady numbers over the past few years. 




Notes to the editor:

•             Visit the BDA website at

•             These reviews have not been ordered deliberately.

•             These reviews can be published separately if required. Please contact the BDA Press Office team if you intend to use a single review, as we may be able to provide additional content. Interviews with individual reviewers can be arranged on request.

•             All reviews were conducted individually on books purchased independently by the BDA. The BDA has had no contact with any of the publishers of these books. Titles were chosen based in part on their pre-sale ranking in December 2016.

•             Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.

View All News