§ Mr. Edwards
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many students were recruited into nursing diploma courses in the academic year 2001–02; and what evidence she has collected on the impact of the cost of studying on numbers of nursing students; 
(2) what plans she has to allow nurses on diploma courses access to student loans; 
(3) what assessment has been made of the level of debt incurred by nurses on diploma courses; 
(4) what assessment she has made of the number of nurses on diploma courses who have dependents. 
§ Mr. Hutton
I have been asked to reply
Consistent with our aim of encouraging wider access to the health professions, a significant (and growing) number of student nurses are mature entrants, single parents and others with dependants.
Approximately 13 per cent of diploma level nursing and midwifery students receive the additional dependants' allowances available to those who have financial responsibility for dependants (including adult dependants). Other sources of information available to the Department, including a recent survey from the Royal College of Nursing, indicate that up to 35 per cent of nursing and midwifery students have children living with them.
NHS Bursaries were introduced in recognition of the demands of health professional training and the need to guarantee the supply of staff to the service. The Government are increasing the number of health professional training places at both diploma and degree level, and already during the current academic year 15,000 students have embarked on diploma level nursing and midwifery programmes. The number of individuals applying for these courses is now running at a buoyant level with the number of applicants having mole than doubled since the 1997–98 academic year. There are now on average more than two applicants for every training place.664W
There are no plans to move diploma level nursing and midwifery students (or any other health professional trainees) to a loan-based system of support.
The Department does not routinely monitor the level of debt amongst diploma level nursing and midwifery students. These students are not reliant on student loans and instead receive a flat-rate basic maintenance grant with no contribution required from the student's income or their family's. In addition, the NHS meets students' liability for a tuition fee contribution (currently £1,075 a year) in full and without means testing. This package of support is, in many circumstances, more favourable that the loan-based system of support available to most other students.