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Best and worst nursing courses revealed


The best and worst nursing courses in the UK have been revealed in a new league table of higher education providers. 

Edinburgh University has been ranked as the best place for nursing and paramedic studies in the country while the worst ranked is the nearby Edinburgh Napier University.

The nursing rankings form part of the Guardian’s university guide for 2014, which was published last week. A total of 77 education institutions were assessed and ranked by the newspaper.  

The newspaper based its league table on a range of factors including the ratio of students to staff, student satisfaction levels and the percentage of former students that have a nursing job within six months. Financial factors such as the amount of money spent per student and the average entry tariff also form part of the rating index.

Other universities in the top 10 included York, Glasgow, Portsmouth, East Anglia, Keele, Surrey, Nottingham, Southampton and Bournemouth (see left, top). Universities on the south coast were especially well represented at the top of the list.

Those at the bottom include Buck New University, Sunderland, De Montfort in Leicester, Manchester Metropolitan, Cumbria, Plymouth, Stirling, Abertay in Dundee and Canterbury Christchurch (see left, bottom).

It is the second year in a row that Edinburgh University has headed the list, while Edinburgh Napier also appeared in the bottom 10 in the 2013 guide.

Among the lower ranked universities, most also appeared in the bottom 10 in the same list for 2013 – the only exceptions being Plymouth and Bucks New.  

There has been more movement at the top of the list. Both Keele and York have broken into the top 10 after being ranked 12 and 15, respectively, in the 2013 guide.  

Even more dramatic progress was made by Surrey, which was rose to 7 from 22 last time around, and by Bournemouth, which climbed more than 30 places to 10 from 41 in 2013.

Professor Gail Thomas, dean of health and social care and applied sciences at Bournemouth, said it had invested “considerable energy” in improving the student experience, increasingly strong relationships with practice partners and improving its facilities.

Professor Pam Smith, head of nursing studies at Edinburgh, told Nursing Times the small size of its nursing course – its intake is 35 people per year – was one of the key factors in its top ranking, as it allowed close working relationships to build between students and lecturers.

She also identified the course’s “good academic tradition” as the university was the first in Europe to offer a nursing degree – in 1960.

But Professor David Sines, pro vice-chancellor and executive dean of society and health at Buckinghamshire New University, said he was “very disappointed” with its low ranking.

He highlighted the “excellent” annual reports the university received from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and its top ranking for nurse education in London from Health Education England and its local boards.

“It is significant to note that the Guardian’s league table ranks nursing in the same category as Paramedical studies, which Bucks New University does not teach. Therefore, the results of this category are not reflective of our core education provision and cannot be viewed in that way,” he added.

A University of Cumbria spokeswoman also said its ranking was “disappointing”. “League tables of necessity rely more on historic data rather than current activity, and are inevitably somewhat out of date. However, the university ranking has improved in the last year and we are confident that this will continue in the future,” she said.

A University of Stirling spokesman said: “In isolation league tables should be read with caution.

“The tables miss out other measures of success that the University of Stirling consistently performs well in,” he said. “For example, students and our school of nursing, midwifery and health were both finalists and winners in the recent Student Nursing Times Awards.”

Professor Mandy Ashton, dean of the health and life sciences faculty at De Montfort, said she thought its ranking had been dragged down by figures suggesting only 57% of its graduates had a nurisng job after six months.

“This isn’t a figure we recognise,” she told Nursing Times, noting that the university was carrying out “urgent work” to find out how the data given to the Guardian had been put together.

“I know our nurses get jobs. We run a successful course here that is oversubscribed,” she said.

Debra Teasdale, acting dean of health and social care at Canterbury Christchurch, which was ranked at 68 in the list, said: “There are a number of factors which affect a university’s position in the league tables and we closely monitor the scores and measures each year to see where we can improve.

“Whilst we are pleased to see that we score highly in the Guardian university guide for added value and we have improved our entry level tariff and student satisfaction measures, it is disappointing to see less positive changes in student: staff ratio.”

Among the top ranking organisations, a spokesman for the University of Glasgow, which was placed at number three, said: “We aim to provide a first-class learning student experience for all our students and we are delighted to see several of our programmes – including nursing – ranked in the top 10 in the UK.”

Pauline Walsh, head of school nursing and midwifery at Keele University, which was ranked sixth, said: “This is reflective of the on-going commitment, dedication and passion of staff and students to contribute to the delivery of excellent care.

“The school believes that there are many factors that have enabled such success; which include strong partnership working and collaboration in all areas of practice and with all of our stakeholders,” she said. “We believe it’s vital to hear and respond to the student voice as well as placement providers and educational commissioners.”

Jessica Corner, dean of health sciences at the University of Southampton, which was ranked ninth, said: “We strive to provide the very best education for all our students and offer a healthy balance between academic studies and time in a clinical environment.

“Compassion and sensitive care are at the heart of our courses and our graduate nurses leave us with the range of skills they need, to deal with the challenges of modern nursing,” she added.

Professor John Craven, vice-chancellor of fourth-placed Portsmouth University, said: “I am very pleased with this position in the league table which reflects solid improvement across all areas of assessment.

“It is a clear indication of the high standards of our teaching and of all that we do to give our students an excellent experience”.

Professor Lisa Roberts, dean of Surrey University’s faculty of health and medical sciences, which was ranked seventh, said: “I am delighted to see our nursing and paramedical studies programmes receiving the credit and recognition they deserve. 

“We are very proud of our strength in preparing students for practice and in supporting them through their training and the quality of our programmes is clearly recognised by both the students and their employers.”


 Best 10 Univerity Nursing Courses
1 Edinburgh
2 York
3 Glasgow
4 Portsmouth
5 East Anglia
6 Keele
7 Surrey
8 Nottingham
9 Southampton
10 Bournemouth


 Worst 10 University Nursing Courses
68 Canterbury Christchurch
69 Abertay Dundee
70 Stirling
71 Plymouth
72 Cumbria
73 Manchester Met
74 De Montfort
75 Sunderland
76 Bucks New
77 Edinburgh Napier


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On Friday 14th June at 1pm, Student Nursing Times are hosting a twitter chat on what makes a good nursing course and how to decide which university to go to. To join in simply follow #SNTtwitchat and include this hastag in all your tweets.


Readers' comments (67)

  • Manchester Metropolitan University won best pre-reg nursing programme according to Student Nursing times awards. Just making sure this point is noted.

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  • Another meaningless league table. (not sour my uni came out on top..supposedly)

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  • Where is Wolverhampton Uni?

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  • phew, glad to see Huddersfield ranking at 21!
    These league tables are always a bit of a worry.

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  • It would be interesting to look at the student demographic.

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    where is my university - University of West London?

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  • Why does anyone care about this? It means nothing!!

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  • tinkerbell

    tomorrow i am attending an NHS 'Customer Service' training session, so we've gone from patient, to client, to service user, to customer, what new name will they think of when this one goes out of vogue? Surely this course has got to rank somewhere in a league of its own.

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  • tinkerbell | 11-Jun-2013 8:05 pm

    punters might be suitable as the next designation!!! ???

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 11-Jun-2013 8:17 pm

    good one!

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