Proposed changes in the way in which nurses are educated and trained will lead to stronger links between the academic and practical worlds of nursing. However, little or no attention has been focused on the potential difficulties associated with such a move for the student in this new and changing role. Important ambiguities of the student's role need to be addressed if the degree nursing student is to make the most of available opportunities for learning. In this paper we draw a distinction between two kinds of ambiguity in the role of nursing degree student during clinical placements. The first type is essential to the very nature of degree education in nursing, since the ambiguities here all entail problems in bridging the gap between the world of practical nursing and that of education. They include whether he or she is to regard the role as one of learner or producer of work; whether to become unreflectively acculturated to the organization or to reflect on its norms and values; and the student function within the organization. A second kind of ambiguity is not essential to nurse education, but is an unintended consequence of placement arrangements. The student is thrust into the clinical field as a short-term member of an organization; their position is anomalous and the motive for their involvement is largely different from that of permanent employees. These ambiguities of the role are also the source of important learning opportunities.