As part of a comprehensive study of perceptions of the philosophy and practice of nursing Project 2000 students and newly qualified diplomates were asked to reflect on their Project 2000 course as a preparation for professional practice. Data were collected from both students and diplomates through self-completion questionnaires and a small number of interviews with diplomates in two study centres, one in the north and the other in the south of England. Nurse managers and G grade practitioners were invited in focus group interviews to discuss the Project 2000 preparation and assess the diplomates ‘fitness for purpose’. Findings suggest that the majority of students and diplomates acknowledged that the course had prepared them well. They acknowledged the importance of the inter-personal skills component of the course, together with the life sciences input. The diplomates particularly valued the theoretical aspect of the course, being well versed in research and keen to continue their learning. Perceived limitations of the course were the management preparation and course organization. Practical skill deficits were perceived as initial skills deficits only. Managers and practitioners were keen to employ the diplomates, whilst acknowledging their need for support and preceptorship. Three important issues for nursing and nurse education are discussed, including the balance of the Project 2000 course, preceptorship and support, and preparation for a role in the community.