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Case study 10: MSc Adult Nursing and MSc Mental Health Nursing programmes


The MSc Adult Nursing and MSc Mental Health Nursing programmes are designed to meet the requirements of both the Universityand the Nursing & Midwifery Council (see references below).  The programme has 4,600 mandatory hours (EU Directive 2005/36/EU). However, students have Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) awarded for 900 hours of study and as a result the 2 year programme is allocated 1400 hours theory delivery and mandatory 2,300 practice learning hours.

The programme admits students on an annual basis and is delivered as full time attendance. The vision is of a robust and dynamic education which develops post-graduate nurses who are competent and safe practitioners and can meet the demands of a modern healthcare system in Scotland, the UK and Internationally. 


 Higher Degree, Professional Programme

 Describe briefly, the activity/initiative/practice

The current MSc Nursing programme was originally validated in September 2010 with approval from the Nursing & Midwifery Council expiring in April 2013. The newly validated MSc programme (5 March 2013) represents a programme that has marshalled a great deal of experience and learning from the original programme/student evaluations. Both MSc programmes are considered a major modification of the BSc Nursing programmes.

What is the background /context to the activity/initiative practice?

The MSc is a shortened 2 year programme that admits graduates with a Social Science/Science degree (relevant degree in biological, health, social science or related subject).

It was envisaged during the initial planning in 2009/10 that the MSc programme would produce future leaders in nursing through an accelerated career pathway. However at this stage there is not enough information on student cohorts as the first one (February 2011) has just completed in February 2013.  What is known is that mentors and practitioners do see a difference in the MSc students in comparison to the undergraduate pre-registration students in so much as they are far more enquiring and engaged in critical discussion.

What made/makes it “Master's” level?

The programme is delivered at SCQF Level 11. However Nursing & Midwifery Council competencies do not carry any academic credit. Rather, this is applied in the context of patient care. Specifically MSc students are expected to demonstrate the ability to synthesise, critically analyse and evaluate information and apply originality in problem solving in nursing practice.

What challenges were encountered/overcome - in terms of mastersness - and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?

Graduate entry students are awarded RPL on the basis of their original degree having an equivalency to SCQF Levels 7-9 in nursing. However it has been apparent in the first 3 cohorts of students that the underpinning knowledge in nursing is not robust and this is further compounded by the rigors of mandatory practice learning experience representing 40 hours a week. Students have no previous subject expertise in nursing and the shortened nature and demands of the programme result in an inadequate amount of time to ‘think through’ and ultimately consolidate their learning.

The newly validated MSc programme redresses some of these issues in the introduction of more robust marketing information, pre-induction resources to provide students with underpinning knowledge prior to commencing the programme (SCQF Levels 7-9) and more extensive research supervision. Support mechanisms are strengthened including the personal tutor, who will now also be the research supervisor, and peer support for graduates buddying those from “hard” science with those from social science backgrounds to help each to adjust to nursing theory

Where to next – in terms of mastersness – and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?

A longitudinal study commenced in September 2012 to evaluate the needs of MSc students and thereby identify programme development that will enhance student engagement and learning. This study will continue and has already given rich data on the basis of which programme enhancements have been introduced.

From a nursing perspective the student’s research proposals will be tracked to identify new areas of hypothesis/enquiry resulting from the dissertation. In addition, results of this tracking will identify suitability for PhD study and /or consideration for funding application.

The School compiles first destination statistics on all commissioned programmes and will advance the MSc data to track career pathways over a longer period of time. This information will be integrated into employability provision for MSc students.



Alison Mc Lachlan, Quality & Enhancement Lead, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Nursing and Midwifery, University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton Campus, Almada Street, Hamilton, ML3 OJB,