RCM calls to forgive student debt at TUC Women’s Conference

on 07 March 2024 Student midwives SMF - Student Midwives Forum Study Student attrition Midwifery Midwives Education TUC NHS NHS Staff NHS England

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has today called on the Government to forgive student midwife debt and expand financial support for all healthcare students. The call comes in an RCM motion to the TUC Women’s Conference on the eve of International Women’s Day.

A recent RCM survey found three-quarters of student midwives in England expect to graduate with over £40,000 in debt. This debt is deterring many potentially great midwives from joining the profession, the RCM says.

Most student midwives are women and half of those are over the age of 30, many with caring responsibilities and financial commitments such as childcare costs and mortgages. For many, graduating with such significant debt to work in the NHS is no longer an option.

Commenting, the RCM’s Director for Representation and Organising, Lynn Collins, said:

“Almost every one of these midwifery students sees their career in the NHS, so forcing them into debt is beggars’ belief, particularly when you look at the demographic of those studying to become a midwife. To saddle any healthcare student with such a level of debt is wrong. The policy of tuition fees for those studying for midwifery and other healthcare degrees is, and always has been, a flawed one, as it does not take into account the considerable time spent on clinical placements. That is why the RCM is calling for debt forgiveness for those who have been saddled with loans since the introduction of tuition fees in 2017 and better financial support for all who wish to become midwives.”

The RCM staunchly opposed the abolition of the student midwife bursary and the reintroduction of tuition fees in 2017, warning at the time of the detrimental impact it would have on the profession. Predictably, the RCM’s State of Midwifery Education report, published in September, shows the growing number of people leaving midwifery courses before they graduate. In 2021/22, around 15% failed to complete their degree.

Last week the RCM published its pre-election ‘How to Fix the Midwifery Staffing Crisis’ guide, which contained solutions to the student attrition rate which included forgivable loans. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland student midwives can avoid tuition fees in exchange for a commitment to work as an NHS midwife post qualification. However, student midwives in England face full fees.

That is why the RCM is calling for parity for student midwives in England, to have their fees paid for them in exchange for working in the NHS post qualification, alongside an annual, non-repayable bursary of £10,000. In addition to debt forgiveness for those impacted by the reintroduction of fees in 2017.



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The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team.  We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team