OU report recommends nursing degree reform

The report says lower grade requirements and degree apprenticeships are the answer to recruitment problems

An Open University (OU) report says nursing degrees need reform to tackle a “chronic shortage” in the profession.

The Breaking Barriers to Nursing report recommends universities lower grade requirements and increase the number of registered nurse degree apprenticeships to help plug the government’s recruitment shortage.

An OU freedom of information (FoI) request found that in 2018 6% of nursing degree places were not filled. The report says if all available places were filled, it could reduce the nursing shortage by 13%.

At OU, we use an open selection process, requiring only the minimum requirements as specified by the NMC, which means we’re able to offer places to a much more diverse range of students – Sally Boyle

Sally Boyle, head of the faculty of health at the OU, wrote in the report: “With the introduction of student loans to replace bursaries for nursing study in England, cost is undoubtedly a major disincentive to many, particularly mature students.”

The report’s wide-ranging recommendations include increasing the number of degree apprenticeships. The OU found that three-quarters of nursing students would “be interested” in the qualification if it had been available when they applied.

Boyle wrote “apprenticeships can also remove financial barriers” and might help widen participation with a new cost-friendly route into the profession.

The report also recommends lowering the entry requirements in line with the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) guidelines. More than 90% of UK universities require three A levels at grade C. This, the report says, is too high.

“This restricts access for many who want to join the profession but who may not have received good educational opportunities in the past,” Boyle wrote.

“At OU, we use an open selection process, requiring only the minimum requirements as specified by the NMC, which means we’re able to offer places to a much more diverse range of students.”


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