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Social selection and professional regulation for Master’s degrees for nurses


J. Drennan: e-mail:


Title. Social selection and professional regulation for Master’s degrees for nurses.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to understand the perspectives of two sets of stakeholders, namely clinical nursing providers and nursing academics, on how registered nurses should be selected for Master’s degree programmes.

Background.  The proliferation of taught Master’s programmes has led to concerns about a lowering of standards. Even with the expansion of professional Master’s programmes, they remain one of the least researched areas of higher education.

Method.  The sampling strategy was a combination of convenience and snowball sampling. In-depth interviews were conducted in 2006–07 with 15 stakeholders and data were subjected to thematic content analysis.

Findings.  There were differences in service providers’ and academics’ perceptions of access to Master’s level education for nurses. Service providers engaged in regulatory practices, as evidenced in the way in which potential candidates were judged to be suitable or not to undertake a Master’s-level education. Academic participants, in contrast, tended to have far fewer concerns about the career plans of applicants and were more likely to invoke discourses of academic educational admission practices.

Conclusion.  The health services need highly skilled, educated workers whose abilities and knowledge make an impact on the provision of effective patient and client care. This level of education can be achieved through continuing education of the professions by taught Master’s degrees. It is imperative that an effective partnerships between clinical service providers and academics are developed to promote understanding of their respective perceptions of admission to the degree.