Using a questionnaire entitled ‘Opinions about People', the attitudes toward ageing and the elderly of 70 students beginning and 21 students completing a 4-year baccalaureate nursing programme were compared with the attitudes of 31 registered nurses entering a 3-year university nursing programme. Thirty students beginning the 4-year baccalaureate physiotherapy programme were included in the control group which also served as the pilot study. Findings revealed few significant differences between students entering a basic or post-registration baccalaureate programme. The cross-sectional comparison of students entering and completing a 4-year university nursing programme indicated a significant difference on one of the seven attitudinal scales (family responsibility for the elderly). Results, implications for nursing education, conclusions and recommendations are discussed.