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Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate Practice

In England, the nursing associate role has been developed in response to workforce needs and acts as a bridge between healthcare support workers and registered nurses within healthcare teams. Our Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate Practice helps you to develop the knowledge and skills needed to deliver high quality, safe and compassionate care in preparation for this new role in healthcare.

You'll need to be employed in an appropriate healthcare setting or supported by an NHS Trust or other healthcare organisation, who are able to provide the required practice learning experience, to study this qualification. With healthcare employers keen to develop their workforce, it is anticipated that the employability of students who complete this qualification will be high, with successful completion allowing you to register as a nursing associate with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Key features of the course

  • Practice-based learning – you’ll need the support of your employer, or an NHS Trust or other healthcare organisation to undertake your practice placements.
  • Enhances your employability through a professionally regulated qualification.
  • Essential preparation/underpinning knowledge and skills for the role of nursing associate.
  • Builds a solid foundation for further study and potential progression to study to be a registered nurse.
  • Covers all fields of nursing practice across the lifespan including long term conditions, mental health, children and young people, end of life care, learning disabilities, primary, secondary, community and acute care.

Course Summary

Foundation Degree

Foundation Degree

  • Widely recognised qualification.
  • Enhance your professional and technical knowledge and skills.
  • Equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.
  • Use it to support your current role or progress your career.
  • Combine work-based learning with academic study – you need to be employed or volunteering in a relevant work setting.
  • Top up to an honours degree in just two years.

We offer most of our foundation degrees as diplomas of higher education for students living or working in Scotland.

Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes
Flexible practice-based programme
2–4 years depending on start date
and study intensity
Study method
Distance learning
& Practice-based learning
Practice-based learning is learning delivered in partnership with employers to support their staff development aims.

We’ve blended our unique distance learning approach with learning undertaken in your workplace:


  • A flexible model with the potential to earn as you learn.
  • Develop highly relevant skills and knowledge to advance your career.
  • Allows employers to support employees to develop within the organisation.
  • Recognises both academic achievement and attainment of work competencies.
  • Provides a setting for the assessment of professional competencies, where this is a requirement for your qualification.

Course details

This foundation degree has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with a 60-credit module introducing health and social care. This is followed by a 60-credit module that focuses on healthcare practice where you'll be required to complete 770 hours in practice as part of your study.
  • In Stage 2, you’ll complete your foundation degree with a 60-credit theory module, and a 60-credit practice module where you will need to complete a further 770 hours in practice.

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in at Stage 1, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

In Stage 1, you’ll study a theory module and a practice module. For the practice module you will be required to complete 770 hours in practice; 345 as a supervised student, 230 in supernumerary external practice placements (recommended) and 195 in a healthcare setting which can be the role you are employed in.

Stage 2 (120 credits)

In Stage 2, you will also study a theory module and a practice module. For the practice module you will be required to complete an additional 770 hours in practice; 345 as a supervised student, 230 in supernumerary external practice placements (recommended) and 195 in a healthcare setting which can be the role you are employed in.

We recommend that external supernumerary placements are spread 50:50 across the whole programme, however as long as you evidence a total of 460 hours by the end of the programme you can split these in different ways between Stage 1 and 2. For example, you may choose to complete 300 hours in Stage 2 and 160 in Stage 1, rather than 230 hours in Stage 1 and 230 hours in Stage 2.

You'll study both of the following:
Developing nursing practice (K211)60
Healthcare theory for practice (K234)60

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 15 March 2022.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate Practice uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • using mathematical and scientific expressions, notations and associated techniques
  • working with specialist reading material such as scientific journals, works of art and musical manuscripts
  • working in a group with other students
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • finding external/third party material online.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding.
  • Cognitive skills.
  • Practical and professional skills.
  • Key skills.

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you’ve already completed some university-level study somewhere else, you may be able to count it towards this qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. For more details and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Foundation Degree in Nursing Associate Practice.

International recognition

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

Compare this course

Entry requirements

This practice-based qualification is offered in association with partnering employers in England. You'll need to have access to an appropriate setting to undertake the practical element of this foundation degree.

To register for this qualification, you'll need to:

  • be employed by a partner organisation or supported by an NHS Trust or other healthcare organisation that has agreed to support your studies. This includes providing alternative practice placements and supervision in practice meeting the NMC requirements for practice assessors and supervisors.
  • complete an entrance interview
  • demonstrate literacy skills (functional skills level 2 or equivalent e.g. GCSE Grade C or above in English)
  • demonstrate numeracy skills (functional skills level 2 or equivalent e.g. GCSE Grade C or above in Maths)
  • show your ability to study at academic level 4 and the potential to progress to level 5.

If you are a trainee nursing associate, you'll need to be employed in a setting where you can be appropriately supervised by a registered nurse or other appropriate health or care professional.

Find out more

Please note you cannot register online for this qualification. Interested employers and individuals should contact us on +44 (0)300 303 0529 for information on how to apply.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week, plus work-based learning.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

Preparing for study with an Access module

Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:

People, work and society Access module

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.

View full details of People, work and society Access module

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • Most OU students study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year. You can also study this qualification full time at a rate of 120 credits a year.

There are a number of different funding routes available. For information about fees, funding options, and how to apply, please contact us on +44 (0)300 303 0529 to discuss.

How will I study this course?

With our unique approach to distance learning, you can study from home, work, or on the move.

You’ll have some assessment deadlines to meet, but otherwise you’ll be free to study at the times that suit you, fitting your learning around work, family, and social life.

For each of your modules, you’ll use either just online resources or a mix of online and printed materials.

Each module you study will have a module website, with:

  • a week-by-week study planner, giving you a step-by-step guide through your studies
  • course materials such as reading, videos, recordings, and self-assessed activities
  • module forums for discussions and collaborative activities with other students
  • details of each assignment and their due dates
  • a tutorial booking system, online tutorial rooms, and your tutor’s contact details
  • online versions of some printed module materials and resources.

If you have additional needs, we can also provide most module materials in alternative formats. Find out more about materials on our accessibility webpage.

Tutor support

You’ll have a tutor for each module, who will introduce themselves before the module begins.

Throughout the module, they will:

  • mark your assignments and give feedback to help you improve
  • guide you to learning resources
  • support you, whether with general study skills or help with a specific topic.


Tutorials throughout the course could be online, face-to-face or a mixture of the two, and they’re always optional.

Online tutorials are live presentations with module tutors in dedicated online tutorial rooms, and are sometimes recorded.


Our assessments are all designed to reinforce your learning and help you show your understanding of the topics. The mix of assessment methods will vary between modules.

Computer-Marked Assignments

  • Usually a series of online, multiple-choice questions.

Tutor-Marked Assignments

  • You’ll have a number of these throughout each module, each with a submission deadline.
  • They can be made up of essays, questions, experiments or something else to test your understanding of what you have learned.
  • Your tutor will mark and return them to you with detailed feedback.

End-of-Module Assessments

  • The final, marked piece of work on most modules.
  • Modules with an end of module assessment won’t usually have an exam.


  • Some modules end with an exam. You’ll be given time to revise and prepare.
  • You’ll be given your exam date at least 5 months in advance.
  • Most exams take place remotely, and you will complete them at home or at an alternative location.
  • If a module requires you to take a face-to-face exam, this will be made clear in the module description, and you will be required to take your exam in person at one of our exam centres.

Progressing to a point where I felt more comfortable writing my assignments, and having my scores reflecting that, made me quite happy because it showed the hard work was being rewarded.

Patrick ‘Ricky’ Skene, BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Other support and resources

Throughout your studies, you’ll have access to our subject-specific Student Support Teams.

They’ll help you with any general questions about your study and updates to your OU account.

To help with your studies, you’ll also have access to:

  • our online library, with high-quality online resources to support your study
  • other university libraries in the UK and Ireland
  • the online Help Centre, which has general information about OU study and support, along with study skills advice
  • free Microsoft Office 365 software
  • IT and computing support from our Computing Helpdesk.

Find out more about student support and being a part of the OU community.

Skills for career development

This foundation degree will prepare you with the practice experience and knowledge required to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as a nursing associate. You will gain experience and knowledge in all four fields of nursing and across the lifespan, including long term conditions, mental health, children and young people, end of life care, learning disabilities, primary, secondary, community and acute care.

Career relevance

Throughout this qualification, you'll build on your skills and knowledge already gained by working in the healthcare sector. This will lead to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as a nursing associate.


When you have successfully completed this foundation degree, you'll be eligible for Nursing and Midwifery Council registration as a nursing associate. You must complete your registration within five years of completing the qualification or you will be required to undertake further training to register.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

Register for this course

Please see Entry requirements to register for this course as online registration is not available.

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