Mock interviews for applicants to nursing programmes who come from a widening participation background.


When did you first introduce the innovation?

More than 24 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

The overall aim of the initiative is to offer potential students from a Low Participation Neighbourhoods (LPN) who are submitting an application to UWE, for a nursing-based degree programme, an opportunity to experience a mock interview. The Practice Interviews offer students an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the stringent selection process involved for acceptance onto nursing degrees. As these programmes are entirely funded by the National Health Service Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) and therefore incur no cost to the student, the university receives a high volume of applications per available place. Often LPN students have limited experience within a group interview situation and no role models in relation to university expectations; exposure to this in advance helps to improve their confidence and their opportunity to succeed. This initiative commenced with Access students however the need for younger applications to be involved became evident as we went through the application forms. The initiative is continually evolving to ensure we can give the right support to the group of widening participation students with the highest need.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

It is clear that nursing is a competitive profession and is likely to become only more so. The offer of professional qualification and a stable career without incurring the student debt typical of university study is understandably attractive. With UWE’s focus on attracting students from widening participation backgrounds and lower income families this provides an opportunity to enhance our support package for these students, many of whom have been shown to be attracted to nursing programmes.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

Students who apply to nursing programmes at the University of the West of England typically fulfil one or more widening participation criteria. UWE is marketed as a vocational, employability-focused institution and hence attracts a significant proportion of working-class students. The recent Paired Peers Report investigated student trends at two institutions (Bristol University and UWE) and highlighted that middle class students experience more success at university due to higher levels of pre-existing social, cultural and economic capital. The University of the West of England therefore has an opportunity to increase the level of provision and support available to its widening participation target group whilst increasing the likelihood of this cohort succeeding during higher education study and post-graduation.

It is important to note that set against this backdrop of competitiveness for nursing degree places, the nursing profession has recently been the focus of high levels of government scrutiny as a result of the findings of Robert Francis QC in his Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. A direct result of the report’s findings has been the introduction of a more robust and stringent selection process for nursing students. High levels of scrutiny are placed upon the Personal Statement to ensure that applicants show suitable levels of prior experience and the range of personal skills required for the profession. In addition a challenging literacy and numeracy test has been introduced with a pass mark of 40%. The literacy aspect places a strong focus on empathy with students required to evidence their experience of caring for others. This ensures that applicants are of a suitable calibre and prior experience and helps to filter out students who have applied primarily for the high levels of funding available.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

We use the same interview process that is required for all nursing applicants and ensure that all colleagues who are involved with admissions are part of the project. This allows us to identify weaknesses in our admissions process ie: cultural issues related to BME students and alter and improve our systems.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

Feedback from a focus group was clear in its belief that the Practice Nursing Interviews had increased their confidence, communication skills and ability to reflect. Participants cited the experience as giving them a realistic taster of the real interview and noted that the positive effect had continued into their studies at UWE. Participants also felt that the Access to HE course better prepared them for both the Practice Interview and future study than other course areas such as A-Levels. This was due to both the intensity and HE-specific nature of Access to HE study compared to other Level 3 programmes. A qualitative quote below from the focus groups clearly demonstrates the support students feel during their transition period and into the first year.

‘Yes .. I had a visit here three years ago and I remember saying that if ever I decide to go to university, then it would be UWE. It’s so inclusive and no matter what your age, your ethnicity, your background …. Everyone is seen as a member of one group. Which is really good because if you’re not a confident student or a confident person … you get this image that people are here to support you. That’s what I like about UWE. I’m the first person in my family to go to university … when I spoke with my father and said I wanted to go to university … he said that that I would go to UWE. He said that UWE is such a good university for people from a range of backgrounds … even my parents know it! I haven’t had a bad experience at all … I’ve had a great Personal Tutor and she’s been really helpful.’

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

It is clear that the Practice Nursing Interviews add positive value to the UWE experience. Thematic analysis has shown that attendance at interview increases student confidence, communications skills and ability to reflect. Participants recognised that the skills they gained from the experience continued into their studies, suggesting the interviews have a lasting, positive effect throughout university life. The Practice Interviews therefore increase the cultural capital from a Widening Participation standpoint, the interviews add true value. Participants are able to engage in university life more effectively than non-participants and will arguably enter the workplace better equipped with the soft skills that modern employers seek.


  • An increase in understanding of higher education and the UWE interviewing process
  • Increased confidence in applying for nursing at UWE
  • An increased understanding of pre-existing skills which will be useful to nursing
  • Quantitative data shows a decreased rate of 2% withdrawal from study by students who attended an interview when compared to those who did not, it is also noticeable that all students who attended a Practice Nursing Interview have remained on the programme, unlike students who did not attend.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

The innovation has been shared and discussed internally at the university. We have also distributed the idea and completed training with colleges and schools, so that those who are unable to attend (as places are limited) gain from this experience.

Paper presented at Horatio Conference 2014 in Malta: Creating a sense of belonging – is it time to rethink transitions? Mandy Bancroft (UWE Bristol) and Emily Prescott (Edge Hill University)

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

We are keen to continue to disseminate and share this successful innovation and are continually looking at conferences where we can share this.