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NHS Education for Scotland

A skilled and sustainable workforce for a healthier Scotland

Pre-registration (nursing and midwifery)

The NMAHP directorate has a role to support performance management in pre-registration nursing and midwifery education on behalf of Scottish Government to ensure:

  • recruitment, selection and retention of the best candidates for professional practice
  • the provision of excellent student experience across contemporary healthcare, thereby producing registered nurses and midwives who are fit for purpose to work within the dynamic health care policy environment in Scotland
  • performance management of pre-registration nursing and midwifery programmes across Scotland

In addition to this NES also promote educational enhancement through partnership working and by informing, sharing, improving and sustaining strategies for key educational issues such as recruitment, selection and retention. In order to support sharing of good practice across Scotland, NES hosts the Scottish Collaboration for the Enhancement of Pre-registration Nursing (SCEPRN) and the Maternity Education Group (MEGs).

NES promotes excellence in pre-registration nursing and midwifery education by working with universities, service providers and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to ensure the delivery of pre-registration nursing and midwifery education standards.

NES receives funding from Scottish Government to support a number of research related projects in respect of pre-registration nursing and midwifery. Examples of some recent projects can be found below.

Men on pre-registration programmes of nursing in Scotland: an exploration of reasons for attrition and possible ways of improving retention (May 2019) [PDF]

Pre-registration nursing recruitment and retention – under-representation of men, influences and causes (May 2018) [PDF]

Fitness to Practice Research: Is it being adopted into policy and practice? (March 2019) [PDF]

Learning in Practice: What are the Perceptions of Undergraduate Pre-Registration Nursing Students and Mentors? (May 2019) [PDF]

Regulatory context

A Scottish Future Nurse and Midwife Programme Board has been established to support a "Once for Scotland" approach to the implementation of the new NMC Standards. The Future Nurse and Midwife Programme Board has a dual purpose:

  1. to provide strategic oversight, direction and governance to the implementation of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Standards of Proficiency for the registered nurse/forthcoming pre-registration midwifery, Standards for Education and Training
  2. to consider the future nurse role in its entirety in Scotland.

Pre-registration courses

If you are interested in a career in nursing or midwifery, there are a variety of pre-registration programmes running throughout Scotland. The majority of pre-registration programmes are at degree level but there are some opportunities to study pre-registration nursing at Masters level.

The Basics

  • most people undertake a three-year course to become a nurse or midwife and there are also 4 year Honours courses available (midwifery programmes last three years)
  • the courses are run by several higher education institutions throughout Scotland
  • courses are at degree level, and include a mix of theory and practice
  • you will get practical experience by being supervised in a variety of health and care settings
  • you have to pass both the theory and practical parts to complete the course
  • for nursing, there are 4 branches to choose from - adult, mental health, care of children, and learning disabilities
  • you may be eligible to receive a non-means tested bursary

Because of the way nurses and midwives are often portrayed in the media, there is probably a difference between what you imagine a qualified nurse or midwife does and what really happens. So here is the chance to do a reality check - did you know that?

  • many nurses and midwives do not wear uniform
  • most health care occurs outside a hospital setting
  • nurses and midwives are expected to think for themselves
  • not all nurses and midwives are women
  • people of all ages and backgrounds choose nursing or midwifery as a career
  • nursing is about keeping people healthy, as well as looking after them when they are sick
  • midwifery is concerned with maintaining or improving women's health and caring for their babies

Relevant links

For more information please go to the NHS Scotland careers websites below:

Links to Scottish Universities offering pre-registration nursing and/or midwifery programmes:

Use the NMC tool to search for approved programmes for nursing and midwifery.


The Scottish Government has published a booklet with guidance explaining available funding for new students undertaking pre-registration nursing & midwifery degree programmes in Scotland during 2021-22.

Contact us

If you have any enquiries please email N&

Last updated: 28/09/2020

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