University of Manchester Revokes £2000 Bursaries for Student Nurses on Coronavirus Frontline

University of Manchester building

Student nurses and midwives at the University of Manchester are facing a wave of undue stress after being informed their annual £2000 bursaries would be revoked.

In a letter sent only to a small number of student reps, the student nurses who have spent the past 9 months working on the frontline unpaid fighting against the coronavirus, were told they would not receive the bursary that the University usually grants all nursing students.

The letter explains: “The University’s eligibility criteria for the Manchester Bursary states that students are not eligible to receive it for any academic year in which they are eligible to receive NHS funding.

The letter sent to a select number of student nursing reps about the changes to bursary policy

“With the introduction of the new NHS Learning Support Fund, including the £5000 training grant, for nursing and midwifery students, you no longer meet the eligibility criteria for the Manchester Bursary.”

The University reasoned that the nurses are already receiving enough money in the form of a £5000 government bursary, which was announced by Boris Johnson towards the end of 2019.

Track Record

In 2015 the Conservative government revoked the original standard bursary of over £16k. The original bursary, however, went towards paying off a student’s tuition fees and cost of living, whereas the new one doesn’t. Crucially, the lowest income students will be left worse off without the University’s bursary while they are still doing long unpaid shifts on the frontline, withoutsick pay or protection.

Furthermore, the new bursary provided shows no signs of being provided every year. To clarify, if the government rescind the policy once coronavirus cases lessen, the poorest students would be left with no money to support themselves.

Despite assurance from the University that students struggling financially can apply for a Living Cost Support Fund, students are still untrustworthy of the University’s apparent lack of care for the wellbeing of student nurses and midwives.

In addition to having their bursaries taken away, students will also still be required to pay the full amount of their tuition fees, regardless of their lack of practical and face-to-face learning on campus during the second semester.

Crucially, the lowest income students will be left worse off without the University’s bursary while they are still doing long unpaid shifts on the frontline, withoutsick pay or protection

Sara*, a 2nd year nursing student at the University said: “It’s really important for us to receive practical skill sessions from the University, which a big part was missed in semester one.

“So, we’re receiving education in a less effective way through standard online teaching and not having any fees cut.”

Consequently, other students are starting to speak out against what they feel is mistreatment from the University.

Janah, a third-year midwife at the University, said: “Personally, I’ve found it very difficult to cope financially throughout the course and the increased bursary available at Manchester was one of the reasons I chose the course.

“It just feels like the University doesn’t value our contribution by taking the bursary from students on a low income.”

Financially Sustainable

Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor Dame of the University, made a statement with the Manchester Evening News in which she admitted the University was letting down the most disadvantaged students.

Dame Nancy Rothwell of University of Manchester [Image: Flikr]

But Rothwell stated that the University will only do face-to-face lessons for students that need it if they can make it safe, which apparently will cost the university a lot of money as they would have to rearrange classrooms and study spaces.

Equally, this could be the University’s reason for not reducing fees student nurses have to pay. Moreover, Rothwell stated that her position as Dame means she has to make the university financially sustainable.

“It just feels like the University doesn’t value our contribution by taking the bursary from students on a low income.”

Sara regarded Rothwell’s statement as being “unhelpful” for the student nurses who are still working unpaid regardless of the University’s financial situation.

Mentally drained

Likewise, the stress currents students are feeling are potentially putting some of next year’s students off from applying after hearing stories of what they would have to go through.

Moreover, when asked if she was worried about the future of student nurses, Sara said: “It mentally affects and drains you before you’ve even qualified.

“Some of my friends before they graduate have told me they’re already considering not going into it because they don’t think they can do it after three years of this.”

*Some names have been changed to protect the identity of sources

[Header image: Maria Teneva, Unsplash]

Written by
Kieran Isgin