Running a nursing degree apprenticeship in England

A nursing degree apprenticeship (NDA) offers a flexible route to train as a nurse and enables people to work at the same time.

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Please note that we have appointed The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) as our new education quality assurance service provider. Their contract is scheduled to start on 1 September 2024. We are in the process of planning transition arrangements between our outgoing provider, Mott MacDonald, and the QAA and will update these webpages in due course. Read more here

What education institutions need to do 

You'll need to ensure that a range of appropriate placements are available to enable students to meet our standards.

The requirements of the EU legislation for adult field of nursing practice and for the programme requirements for all fields of nursing practice, must be carefully monitored to ensure  all parties are clear about who undertakes what activity, and to ensure that all requirements are met and can be evidenced for all adult nursing students, including NDA students.

Our QA delivery partner Mott MacDonald has identified a number of areas requiring attention in order for approval to be granted for the delivery of a NDA route or pathway:

  • Programme materials for student need to be clear and easy to understand. The NDA student journey and its timeframes need to be clearly set out, along with any policies relating to this route which are set by education institution policies. This ensures that the public, and future students, are receiving appropriate information about their programme.
  • Preparation materials regarding supervision and assessment Standards for Student Supervision and Assessment, including handbooks, need to be clear to ensure all participants understand their roles and responsibilities, and the legal definitions of those requirements.
  • Strategic consideration of the role and involvement of the external examiner in both academic and practice learning  areas of the programme; and
  • Clear mapping of module and programme outcomes against NMC standards.

Find the answers to some frequently asked questions for education institutions considering running a NDA under our Standards for Education and Training (2018).

Find more information on seeking approval for a nursing degree apprenticship

What does the programme pathway look like?

Are NDA pathways subject to different NMC education standards than full-time pre-registration nursing programmes?

No. NDA pathway programmes are required to meet the same standards for pre-registration nursing education. These were revised in 2018, and any new NDA programme will need to be aligned to these new standards.

NDA pathways also need to align to the Institute of Apprenticeship apprenticeship standards. These are currently being developed against our new 2018 standards.

How long is a pre-registration nursing programme delivered via an NDA pathway?

The length of a nursing degree apprenticeship programme, as outlined in the NDA standard,  will typically be 48 months, and with accreditation of prior learning 36 months,  in order to deliver the combined 4600 hours of practice and theory required by EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

This is because the student will usually undertake the programme part-time, whilst also being employed in a substantive employment role.

The Institute for Apprenticeships require students to be employed over the course of their training, but the hours of employment agreed between an employer and the apprenticeship student nurse will determine the length of their education and training.

The education institution running the programme will need to be involved in these discussions as part of their selection and admission.

Does a NDA student have to be supernumerary?

Yes. Supernumerary means additional to the numbers required for safe staffing in any setting.

As stated in our standards for pre-registration nursing education, programme providers must ensure that NDA students are supernumerary during the 2300 hours of practice learning, and also be released for time to learn in theory.

Any time spent working as an employee will not count towards their practice learning experience.

Will students have access to other placement areas and providers to gain access to a range of practice learning opportunities?  

Yes. In order to be able to demonstrate the proficiencies required for entry to the NMC register, NDA students must have education and training in a range of health and care environments, including theory, simulation and practice settings.

While remaining employed, students will be placed at other practice placements in their supernumerary capacity in order to gain their required minimum 2300 hours of practice learning.

NDA students are not limited to their employer’s practice setting when learning in practice.  

What is an end point assessment (EPA)?

The Institute for Apprenticeships require an independent end point assessment (EPA) to be undertaken by all students in order to complete their apprenticeship and receive the certificate of completion.

This is carried out by an external provider, and is an assessment of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that have been learnt throughout the apprenticeship. The purpose of the assessment is to make sure the apprentice is fully competent in their chosen occupation.

The EPA for the NDA is currently non-integrated and therefore successful completion of the EPA is not a requirement for entry onto our register.

However, non-completion will result in financial penalties for the employer and AEI.

In this instance the EPA is not included with the regulatory remit of the NMC, so we cannot provide guidance on this aspect of the NDA, nor does it form part of our quality assurance activity, as our new standards are focused on outcomes, rather than telling AEIs and practice placement partners how to undertake assessments.

For further information, please contact the Institute for Apprenticeships.

Why is the EPA being addressed at my organisation’s NMC approval event?

All NMC quality assurance events are conducted as a joint arrangement with the education institutions and their practice placement partners.

As the education institution may set conditions on internal approval being granted at that time for new delivery routes, the EPA may be raised and possibly referred to in approval summary documentation.

However, as our remit does not extend to the EPA, this will be separate from the requirements set in the NMC’s regulatory context.

Related guidance

Becoming an apprentice