North-east universities have seen increased applications in areas including nursing and medicine.
The coronavirus pandemic has been said to have shone a light on the vital contribution that healthcare staff provide to the country.
Both Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Aberdeen University have reported there has been an increase in applications for medical-related courses.
A rise in applications does not, however, mean that more people will be accepted onto the course – as many degrees have caps on the number of people who can study a subject.
Many courses have also not yet reached their deadlines on UCAS.
Aberdeen University offers the city’s medicine course for people interested in becoming doctors.
A spokesman for the university confirmed that the deadline for its medicine course later this year passed in October with around 300 more applications compared to the previous year.
He added: “We have had around 2,200 applications, compared to around 1,900 in the 2020 cycle.”
Meanwhile, RGU offers a range of courses through its School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedic Practice and has seen an increase of more than 50% in applications for the course.
A spokeswoman for the university said: “RGU has a proven track record of providing high-quality health and social care education, with our students and graduates making a significant contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of the local and wider communities.
“For the academic year 2020/21, the School of Nursing Midwifery and Paramedic Practice has seen a rise of 56.99% in applications in comparison to the previous academic year. This significant increase is reflective of our reputation for addressing skills needs through our student-centred and demand-led learning and teaching provision.”
The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the rise in the number of people keen to become nurses, however, has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that more funded spaces in university are made available.
Royal College of Nursing Scotland associate director Eileen McKenna said: “The increase in applications for nursing courses in Scotland is welcome. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the vital contribution that nursing staff make to the entire health and care system.
“However increased applications for nursing will not result in an increase in nurses unless the Scottish Government increase the number of funded university places for nursing students going forward.
“An increase in places across the fields of nursing is critical to future proof the workforce and ensure appropriate numbers of registered nurses are joining.
“Over five percent of NHS nursing and midwifery posts were unfilled at 30 September 2020 and we know that the scale of nursing vacancies within social care is also a significant concern. Workforce shortages are having a major impact on staff wellbeing and patient safety and this was the case even before the pandemic.
“The Scottish Government must ensure Scotland has the nursing workforce it needs; that nursing is seen as an attractive and rewarding career, nursing students are properly supported and that policies and working conditions support nursing staff to stay in this safety-critical profession.”
Last year the Scottish Government increased the intake numbers for nursing by 5% – the eighth successive increase – to 4,206 training places.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Nursing and Midwifery continues to be a popular profession, with UCAS reporting that in Scotland there were over 4,700 acceptances onto university places in 2020, up by over 700, and more than 500 in excess of our target number.
“We have committed £40 million for extra nursing and midwifery training places in this parliament, and the target of 2600 has been already met and exceeded. The total number of nursing and midwifery students in training in universities in Scotland is expected to be over 12,000 in 2021 – a record high.
“This will ensure we continue to recruit and retain the next generation of our highly skilled nurses whose extraordinary hard work, dedication, skills and commitment have kept us moving through this unprecedented time of need.
“We are currently considering the student nursing and midwifery intake for 2021/22 alongside colleagues in NHS Boards, universities, unions and the care sector, and a decision will be announced shortly.”