Britain has reported a major rise in applications from international students wanting to study nursing.
The universities admissions service Ucas said the number of people applying from outside the EU had increased by 118 per cent.
Two-thirds of applicants said they were inspired by Covid-19 to study nursing.
“Since the start of the pandemic, demand for nursing in the UK from outside the EU has risen by 118 per cent,” Ucas said.
“Whilst these applicants still only account for one in 74 acceptances to nursing courses, Covid does not appear to have negatively impacted on appetite from international students to study nursing in England.”
There has also been a six per cent rise in applicants from EU states despite applications for other courses plummeting among this cohort.
International undergraduate deferrals of course start dates almost doubled in 2020, to 5,690 from 3,275. The latest figures show that 2021 deferrals were up 29 per cent from 2019, to 4,230.
“It is incredibly heartening to see that one of the positive legacies of the work of our incredible healthcare workers during the pandemic is that more of our young people have been inspired to enter the nursing profession, particularly when they are arguably the ones who have been most impacted, both in terms of their education and way of life,” Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said.
In total, a record 28,815 students in England selected a nursing course in 2021 as their first choice when applying to university.
In a report from Ucas and Health Education England, 69 per cent of 2021 nursing applicants said they were inspired by the pandemic, while about one in 10 said this was the most important factor in their decision.
The report found that one in four applicants in 2021 said current healthcare workers were the most influential factor in their decision to apply.
The Royal College of Nursing said the professionalism shown by nurses during the pandemic could be behind a leap in the number of students.
RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said “record numbers of acceptances does not equate to record numbers of nurses entering the workforce”, because many of the students would not qualify until 2024 or beyond.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the profession and the surge in applications to study nursing is very welcome,” she said.
“But there are already significant staff shortages in nursing and it is clear acceptance numbers are not keeping pace with vacancies.
“Many of the existing nursing workforce are thinking of leaving the profession because of the unrelenting pressures and because they feel undervalued, exhausted and that they can’t give patients the level of care they want.
“Ministers now need to grip the situation or risk this wave of enthusiasm being squandered.”
The report published on Thursday found that 99 per cent of 2021 nursing applicants surveyed said they were confident they had made the right decision in their course of study.
The data showed that 30 per cent more students had applied to mental health nursing courses in comparison with 2019.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has welcomed the rise in applicants.
“I’m thrilled that a record number of 18-year-olds applied to study careers in nursing in 2021, with the extraordinary achievements of staff during the pandemic inspiring a new generation to become the future of our health and care services,” he said.
“We are on track to recruit 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament and we are supporting all eligible nursing students with a training grant worth at least £5,000 [$6,816] a year. I urge anyone who wants a fulfilling career in the NHS [National Health Service] to apply next year.”