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Surrey offers a new route into nurse education

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surrey uni

surrey uni



The University of Surrey provides a new way for students to enter nurse education

Nursing is one of the most flexible careers available. Not only can UK-qualified nurses work anywhere in the UK and many other countries, but the specialties and settings nurses work in means a nursing career can suit people with a wide range of interests.

melaine coward index

melaine coward index

Despite these benefits, universities offering nursing programmes have experienced a drop in applicants in recent years. Applications have been affected by a number of factors, particularly the removal of the student bursary, years of pay freezes and news stories about NHS staff shortages. 

The University of Surrey is currently ranked fourth in the league table for nursing education providers – and in the top two providers in England. As a result, it has fared better than many others in attracting students. However, the university has seen a drop in applications for adult nursing and is acting to address the issue, as Professor Melaine Coward, head of the university’s School of Health Sciences, explains.

“Our children’s nursing and midwifery programmes are holding up, possibly because media portrayals of these professionals are all amazingly positive, whether in news, drama or documentaries. Adult nursing gets a lot of negative media and this affects people considering what to do at university.”

The university has found that some ideal applicants don’t get the required A-level results and are unable to take places on nursing programmes. 

“Every year we reject around 100 applicants who demonstrate all the right values and meet all our criteria but just don’t make the grade with their exams. We wanted to help this group to come to Surrey,” says Professor Coward.

Rather than allow the profession to lose out on potentially excellent recruits, the university has set up a foundation year to enable these students to top up their A-levels with studies that are focused on health and social care, taught at the equivalent of A-level second year. The foundation year will be offered to people interested in all its pre-registration courses – adult, children’s and mental health nursing.

“We believe the crowded school curriculum doesn’t give pupils the opportunity to study these subjects, and for people who are interested in becoming nurses, they are the subjects they are likely to do best in,” says Professor Coward. “We want to recruit the right people into nursing, who are likely to remain in the profession throughout their career.”

“The foundation year plays to their strengths, and links with the recommendation in the Francis report for a nurse cadet scheme to give people a chance to try nursing before they sign up for a degree,” she explains. “It includes work placements and gives students an understanding of health policy and the links between health and social care, and we offer career advice and guidance for all career paths.”

Foundation-year students, like all Surrey nursing students, will also be supported towards dual registration if they wish. Employers are increasingly recognising the value of recruiting nurses who are qualified in both mental and physical health fields. This will help to reduce health inequalities experienced by people with mental health problems and ensure that those being treated for physical problems can have their mental health needs addressed.

To ensure foundation year students get the best possible experience, the university has been working closely with placement providers. Employers are also recognising the value of having the university’s foundation-year students on work placements, recognising that the scheme is helping them to grow their own local nursing workforce

But it’s not just the opportunity to get into nursing that the University of Surrey offers foundation-year students. They also have access to the university’s excellent student wellbeing support services and educational support. The school has also just relocated to the new  Kate Granger Building.

Opening in April 2019, this exceptional facility will have state-of-the-art teaching facilities, including an extensive clinical simulation suite and facilities for group learning away from the traditional lecture theatre set-up, enabling it to meet diverse learning needs. And if they continue their nurse education, they are in a prime position to be offered a place on the university’s highly regarded pre-registration programmes.

Professor Coward believes the foundation year can make a real contribution to addressing the nursing shortage. “We are offering a route into nursing for people the profession cannot afford to miss.”

University of Surrey

Open days

The university is running a series of open days for people interested in nursing or the foundation year, on the following dates:

  • Friday 5 July
  • Saturday 6 July
  • Saturday 14 September 
  • Sunday 13 October

To book a place on a School of Health Sciences open day go to 

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