An Exploration into the Experience of Non-Traditional Students Within a Nursing Pre-Registration Diploma Programme

This source preferred by Vanessa Heaslip

Authors: Heaslip, V.

There is currently a huge transition occurring within Higher Education (HE) with regard to increased numbers of students accessing HE, as well as a greater diversity of student population then ever before. This growth in widening participation has been fuelled by reports by Kennedy (1997); Fryer (1997) and Dearing (1997). However the foundations of widening participation lie within social justice arguments by redressing the inequalities within the educational system (Archer and Hutchings 2000). It is interesting therefore that much of the research regarding non traditional students has concentrated upon the individual attributes of students, and very little work has been undertaken on examining the implications of this policy in light of the processes within the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) themselves.

Therefore the purpose of this qualitative research underpinned by critical theory was to explore the experiences of non traditional students within a nursing pre registration Diploma programme, by asking “What are students’ learning experience whilst undertaking a Diploma Pre-registration nursing programme?” and “What are students’ perceptions regarding support mechanisms?”. The research utilises a mixed method approach consisting of focus groups and a semantic differential scale questionnaire, in order to provide a deeper and more comprehensive picture of the students’ experiences (Tobin and Begley 2004).

The results of the study identified that many of the processes employed by the HEI provided good support to students in light of personal tutor support, and peer support. However the research also identified that many of the working processes of the university reflected a more traditional student construct, this was apparent as the participants identified a lack of preparation prior to commencing the, as well as poor communication regarding clinical placements. This research also identified that participants felt marginalised by the culture within the HEI which appeared to support a perception of difference rather then one of inclusion and diversity. This perception of difference was further endorsed by the negative attitudes of their peers, clinical and academic staff and the long term implications of this in respect to professional practice needs to be considered.

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