Post-registration nurse education in England has changed significantly in recent years. One of the most significant changes has been the emergence of flexible learning which is characterized by adaptations in the way programmes are planned, the nature of provision, the ways of enhancing access, the process of teaching and learning, the nature of assessment and the way in which programmes are evaluated. This paper reviews the influences on nurse education at post-registration level which have brought about flexible learning. It analyses the purposes of flexible learning by integrating theoretical considerations and the outcomes of the case study of programmes and modules deemed by providers to be flexible. The over-arching purpose of flexible learning is the improvement of educational quality, specifically in relation to improving access, availability, relevance, and the way in which individual practitioners' needs and importantly the needs of other stakeholders (for example, providers, employers and validating bodies) are met. Flexible learning is also concerned with encouraging self-direction in professional learning. The different purposes and the way in which they interrelate, together with the range of different stakeholders and their potentially conflicting needs, significantly complicates the management of flexible learning.