UWS midwifery course applications soar amid concern over uni access

Applications for a midwifery course have soared with 1100 people vying for 102 places amid warnings limited training opportunities are resulting in staff shortages in some parts of Scotland.

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS), said interest in both the BSc and the postgraduate entry MSc degree course had peaked last year.

UWS is only of only three higher institutions in Scotland offering degree courses in midwifery alongside Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Napier in Edinburgh.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) say that because training is restricted to three universities “the odds are stacked” against some areas of the country.

Fewer students apply from areas that are more distant from those institutions and typically students will seek placements, near to where they study.

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The union says this has led to much lower numbers of newly qualified midwives from the Highlands, Islands and Tayside.

It has called for midwifery courses to be offered in more universities with a more flexible approach to training such as shortened programmes for nurses and other healthcare professionals.


Susanne Morrison, admissions lead at UWS, said its courses continually attracted a high volume of applicants.

“Even at the lower numbers, it’s still quite a high ratio,” she said.

“We cover five health boards in the West of Scotland but we also get applicants from the whole of Scotland and Ireland and some European applications.”

Liz Miller, BSc course leader, added: “It’s a very rewarding career and I think people realise that.”

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She said the university does not have a “huge amount of control” over course numbers but also has to take into consideration availability of hospital placements.

One applicant who was rejected for the UWS course said she was advised that shadowing opportunities on wards were limited due to staff shortages.

However, the university says experience is “not something we expect” and said a high proportion of applicants were school leavers.

Jaki Lambert, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, described staffing as “patchy”.

She said: “We know some areas, particularly the Highlands and Islands, are struggling to attract midwives. 

“Scottish universities training midwives must be supported to meet the needs of all maternity services across Scotland.”

The RCM has previously warned that staff are being driven out of the NHS by workforce shortages and fears they cannot deliver safe care with “burnout and illness” exacerbating the situation.


An investigation by The Observer found eight trusts and health boards including NHS Dumfries and Galloway had been forced to reduce or review home birthing services due to staff shortages. 

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Growing our midwifery workforce is crucial and we have steadily increased target places on undergraduate midwifery courses over 10 consecutive years, culminating in a target intake of 301 midwives for 2022 – a 5% uplift on the 2021 target intake. 

“Each year, the Scottish Government undertakes a robust midwifery student intakes planning process to determine the target number of midwifery students to which Scottish universities should recruit to meet future midwifery workforce demands.” 

A report by the RCM published yesterday said lives can be saved if there is proper investment in better support for pregnant and postnatal women with mental health problem.

It found that treatment is patchy across the UK and is still failing to meet their needs.

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