Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Close

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Student nurses face tougher tests for course places

  • 23 Comments

Will higher academic entry requirements for nursing degree courses result in better care in the years to come?

Almost two thirds of institutions offering nursing degrees are increasing their entry requirements in the face of unprecedented demand for places, a Nursing Times investigation can reveal.

The survey of higher education institutions also found huge variation in the grades universities demand from prospective nurses and in the amount of time students spend on placement.

Entry requirements for nursing degrees ranged from 80 University College Admissions Service (UCAS) points, equivalent to one C grade at A-level, to 320, equivalent to an A and two Bs. Time on placement meanwhile ranges from 53 weeks to 85 weeks over a three year degree.

Of the 54 universities who responded to Nursing Times’ request for information about their three year undergraduate adult nursing programme, 62 per cent revealed they had increased entry requirements or were considering doing so, mainly due to high demand.

Gill Robertson, student advisor at the Royal College of Nursing, said it was likely the “social economic climate” was driving interest in nursing courses as people looked for a more secure career.

She said degree level education was essential due to the increasing demand for analytical and decision making skills among nurses.

“People who can’t meet that requirement can still care as associate practitioners or healthcare assistants… you have to have academic ability [to be a registered nurse].”

However, Dave Munday, lead professional officer at Unite, said he was concerned that some people who had the potential to become excellent nurses could be excluded by rising entry requirements.

The investigation found universities were asking for an average of 235 UCAS points for their next intake, equivalent to three Cs at A-level, with many also specifying one of the subjects was a science. In the past nursing diploma courses, which will be phased out by 2013 when the profession becomes degree only, have been open to applicants with five GCSEs at grade C or above, in line with the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s minimum requirements.

Director of policy at the Council of Deans of Health Matthew Hamilton said institutions would still take into account other relevant experience and entry on to degree level courses would be possible through foundation courses or other A-level equivalents.

He said: “We’ve got to welcome and celebrate the fact we’ve got more people wanting to be nurses than ever before.”

However, many universities are receiving up to 10 applicants for every place.

From next year applicants to the heavily oversubscribed Florence Nightingale School of Nursing at Kings College London must have 320 UCAS points, making it the toughest course to get on to academically in the UK. However, school head Professor Anne Marie Rafferty said grades alone would not guarantee a place if the student did not perform well at interview or pass numeracy or literacy tests.

Ms Rafferty said increasing entry requirements were a “positive trend” for the profession where increasing acuity, complexity and dependency of patients meant there was a need for a “highly educated workforce” but differing entry requirements created courses that catered for “different parts of the labour market”.

Just over a tenth of courses asked for more than 300 UCAS points, while just six asked for less than 200. The latter tended to be courses, such as those at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Nottingham University, where students could go on to complete a degree or a diploma depending on their performance during the first year.

A spokeswoman for the NMC, which accredits all nursing courses, said there were no plans to stipulate minimum UCAS points for entry on to nursing courses once the profession became degree only.

She added: “As we move towards the degree-only education system it will remain important that higher education institutions have the flexibility to be innovative in the development of curricular and be able to respond and adapt to constantly changing health care environments.”

Poll

Will higher academic entry requirements for nursing degree courses result in better care in the years to come?

View poll results
  • 23 Comments

Readers' comments (23)

  • SO glad i trained years ago....i love me job but not academicly minded but i know what i am doing and get my job done. Does it matter if i can only write short paragraphs and not 2000 word essays, to say what has to be done and what the problme is????????

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If I was to do my Nurse Training now, with those expected grades I think I'd go into medicine at least you will be appreciated.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • About time, I have seen the quality slip. The uni I trained with used to graduate around 25 from an intake of 50. They are now graduating 250. We used to be proud to be degree nurses. We should be again and drive up intake standards.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 31-May-2011 12:40 pm I actually agree, whilst I have reservations about our profession being worth it, pay, conditions etc which I voice regularly, I agree that the standards of entry for our degree course SHOULD be high. Not only that, the course content needs to be looked at to ensure we as a profession produce highly qualified and skilled, knowledgeable practitioners.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Although I support nurse training becoming degree level, I am sceptical about the increase in demand for places. I do hope it is by people wanting to be a nurse, and not the attraction of getting a degree, only to go and leave the profession. Not all degree courses offer the work experience you get with health-related courses. Many nurse in high positions have worked their way through the ranks, from N/A to PhD, so I hope the openings for this progression continue. You cannot decry experience from the University of Life. So to coin a phrase, I hope the baby isn't thrown out with the bath water. I just hate the attitudes, not here at the moment I hasten to add, that after 3 years of training to degree level makes someone a better nurse than their forebearers. From what I have read, there are more comments in 'all' blogs about standards of care dropping since we 'became more academic'. Like everything else, time will tell.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Degrees may improve patient care, but they won't beat the NHS system ( while it still exists that is)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am proud to be a one of the last traditionally trained nurses. I agree that that standards need to be raised but at what cost to the nursing profession. How many people will now not be able or feel they are able to enter our profession because they do not have the academic qualifications? Does having good grades make you a more caring person? I have worked with people who have excellent qualifications but do not seem to have an ounce of compassion who I wouldn't want to look after my dog let alone a relative.
    I just hope that some consideration is made to people who feel that nursing is their vocation but who lack the grades (yes, I still believe that nursing is a vocation)
    As someone else has said, if degree nursing was option when I trained I would have used my qualifications to be a doctor instead. I have been a CNS for two thirds of my career now, I still don't have a degree (have more than enough points though) but I teach at Degree and Masters levels.
    A piece of paper from a University does not make a good nurse nurse or improve patient care. It is the passion of the individual that does and a person either has it or not.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • presumably this new generation of nurses will be awarded more attractive employment conditions to retain and recruit them than is currently the place otherwise no one will consider it worthwhile entering this course of study.
    it seems that the aims are to have fewer qualified nurses so maybe there will be fewer of these posts and less graduates to fill them in the future and more associate practitioners and healthcare workers who hopefully will also receive appropriate and adequate training and certification so that patients are looked after by an all qualified workforce.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am proud to be a one of the last traditionally trained nurses. I agree that that standards need to be raised but at what cost to the nursing profession. How many people will now not be able or feel they are able to enter our profession because they do not have the academic qualifications? Does having good grades make you a more caring person? I have worked with people who have excellent qualifications but do not seem to have an ounce of compassion who I wouldn't want to look after my dog let alone a relative.
    I just hope that some consideration is made to people who feel that nursing is their vocation but who lack the grades (yes, I still believe that nursing is a vocation)
    As someone else has said, if degree nursing was option when I trained I would have used my qualifications to be a doctor instead. I have been a CNS for two thirds of my career now, I still don't have a degree (have more than enough points though) but I teach at Degree and Masters levels.
    A piece of paper from a University does not make a good nurse nurse or improve patient care. It is the passion of the individual that does and a person either has it or not.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 1-Jun-2011 11:48 am lets not start this whole ridiculous my way was better than your way argument again. It is quite frankly divisive and pointless. Yes, a piece of paper does not make a good Nurse, but a good Nurse NEEDS that piece of paper to work in a highly demanding environment. Nursing IS a vocation, but it is ALSO a profession! The two can exist side by side and more people are starting to realise that. The notion that they cannot is archaic. I also disagree about the 'Doctor' comment. I have the grades to have studied medicine if I chose to, but I CHOSE Nursing because I wanted to be a part of this career. To insinuate that it is any less of a career than medicine is insulting, and is part of the reason why the bar must be set high for the course, if we are to be considered as qualified as our COLLEAGUES (not our superiors as many still have the preconception of). I do agree that we deserve the same level of pay, respect and status as our colleagues though and I know this is still the reason many choose to study Medicine rather than Nursing, this does need to change.

    Anonymous | 1-Jun-2011 10:03 am you make an excellent point about no one considering these courses unless the jobs, pay and conditions are there for them when they qualify, it is one that I wholeheartedly agree with, as I was just saying.

    To maintain a reputation as highly skilled and qualified professionals, then the bar must be set high. Would it really do the professions reputation any good if anyone without any qualifications or grades can simply waltz in? No, it doesn't. Would a medical degree accept people with no A levels or very few GCSE's? No. Would they allow people to continue if they could not keep up the academic standard required? No. So why should we? Nursing is an amazing profession and deserves the best people, and those who aren't up to the academic standard may be very caring, but if they aren't up to the standard, they should not be in the job, there are roles for carers who are not up to the standard. I have always argued Nurses now (and in the future) will need BOTH academic ability AND a caring attitude. Those who do fit the entry requirements and can keep the academic level required through the course will be no less caring.

    BUT, as I was saying, there MUST be the jobs, pay and status available to those people when they graduate. Highly skilled and qualified professionals deserve no less, and will not stick around if they are not.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.