Specialist Nursing (with pathways) - PgDip

2024/25 Full-time Postgraduate course


Postgraduate Diploma


Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


School of Nursing and Paramedic Science


Belfast campus

Start date:

September 2024


The Post Graduate Diploma Specialist Nursing (with pathways) prepares nurses for clinical leadership roles in Specialist Nursing.


The Post Graduate Diploma Specialist Nursing (with pathways) is aimed at preparing nurses for leadership roles in a field of nursing of their choice. There are a range of pathways to suit all nurses including District Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, Learning Disability Nursing, and Community Children’s Nursing. The full range of Adult Nursing Specialisms include, Adult Nurse (formerly Nurse Practitioner) Palliative Care, Stroke Care, Diabetes Care and Emergency Care.

The programme leads to more than one qualification. You will obtain a degree from Ulster University and a professional qualification from the United Kingdom Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Students of District Nursing also obtain a further professional qualification in Nurse Prescribing.

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

About this course


The term ‘Specialist Nursing’ refers to the exercising of higher levels of judgement and decision-making in relation to the nursing care of individuals, families and communities. As a future Leader you must display this higher level of decision-making across four areas; clinical practice, care and programme management, clinical practice development and clinical practice leadership.

At Ulster we focus on developing you as a leader and help you achieve academic and professional competence in all these areas. This programme is a 50-50 programme, meaning that 50% of the programme is university-based and 50% based in the practice learning setting. In the practice learning setting you will be allocated to a Supervisor and Assessor. These practitioners are established Specialist Nurses and leaders in clinical care . He/she will assess you and sign off your competencies prior to recording the professional qualification with the NMC. You will also be allocated to a Pathway Leader and Academic Assessor who will supervise your academic development and provide support throughout.

The academic component of the programme consists of a four 30-credit modules.

Research Module

Leadership Module

+ Two Specialist Focus Modules, depending on your selected pathway.

District Nursing students have an additional 20 credits to complete in order to evidence outcomes related to Nurse Prescribing.


Full-time students are expected to attend the University for at least 2 days per week, with the remaining time allocated to Practice Learning. Full-time students are normally time-tabled for Mondays and Fridays.

Part-time studentsattend the University for 1 day per week during Term-Time. In Semester One this is normally a Monday and in Semester Two a Wednesday. Some Pathways have additional days ( i.e Emergency Care) but you will be informed of this at Induction. Practice Learning is organised on days that suit you and your Sign-off Mentor.

All studentsare expected to attend all classes associated with the programme and be punctual and regular in attendance. Attendance will be monitored both at the University and in the Practice Learning setting and Employers are informed of all absences.

Start dates

  • September 2024

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Teaching methods on the programmes are innovative and interactive. Clinical experts and Users of Health Services and\or Independent Sector are invited to teach students about current practice, developments in the field and personal experiences of specialist nursing services.

Seminars enable students to take responsibility for leading discussions on practice based issues and reviewing the current literature in their field. Tutorial sessions enable small group work to be carried out that facilitates a specific focus for particular specialisms. Skills classes, role plays, use of table-top scenario simulation (including computerised manikin) and video play back are used where appropriate to develop skills in a range of professional interventions.

All of the above methods encourage active student participation and empower individual students to recognise that as experienced nurses each have a wealth of experience that can be utilised to illustrate the points being made in classes.

Assessment is seen as crucial part of the learning process. A range of assessment methods including OSCEs, Reflective and Academic Essays, Case Studies and NIPAD are used. Patients and families are involved in the assessment process.

The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.

Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:

Attendance and Independent Study

As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until near the start date and may be subject to change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days of attendance will often be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.

Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.

The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.

Postgraduate Masters courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.

Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.


Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be via one method or a combination e.g. examination and coursework . Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Normally, a module will have four learning outcomes, and no more than two items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.

Calculation of the Final Award

The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6 (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).

Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Masters degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.

All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (20%) or Lecturers (55%).

We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advanced HE - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.

The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise.  The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff.  This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.

Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.

Figures correct for academic year 2021-2022.

Belfast campus


High quality apartment living in Belfast city centre adjacent to the university campus.

Find out more - information about accommodation  

Student Wellbeing

At Student Wellbeing we provide many services to help students through their time at Ulster University.

Find out more - information about student wellbeing  

Belfast Campus Location

The Belfast campus is situated in the artistic and cultural centre of the city, the Cathedral Quarter.

Find out more about our Belfast Campus.

Campus Address

Ulster University,
2-24 York Street,
BT15 1AP

T: 02870 123 456


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Clinical practice development and research for Specialist Practice

Year: 1

This module provides the critical skills necessary for the specialist nurses to use research, in order to make informed decisions about clinical practice and therefore enhance nursing and improve the quality of care. Students will gain a greater understanding and confidence in their engagement with the research process and its application to inform evidence-based practice. Assessment is by 100% coursework.

Specialist Practice Assessment Document

Year: 1

All Specialist Nursing Practice Programmes at Ulster require students to complete a 75-day (600 hrs) practice learning period where they work under the supervision of a Nursing Midwifery Council approved Practice Supervisor and a Practice Assessor plus an Academic Assessor. This period of Practice Learning is mandatory at both undergraduate and post graduate level. Furthermore this practice learning period runs alongside the theoretical part of the programme, one year for full time students and two years for part-time students. Course regulations state that the academic award is wholly dependent on completion of the Specialist Practice Assessment document.

Leadership for Specialist Nursing

Year: 1

As confirmed by recent major inquiries, there is a need for more effective leadership in healthcare settings. This module aims to facilitate specialist nursing students develop knowledge and skills in leadership, enabling them gain a wider strategic understanding in order to become effective leaders within an interdisciplinary team. Learning and teaching methods include lectures, seminars and an opportunity to explore personal leadership in a practice learning setting. Assessment is by 100% coursework.

Holistic Practice in Specialist Mental Health Nursing

Year: 1

This module is optional

This 30 credit core module introduces postgraduate specialist nursing students to the principles, theory, practice, standards and application of assessment and formulation of care, safety and therapeutic interventions used in mental health practice. Students are introduced to models, key concepts and research evidence of assessment and formulation of care, safety and therapeutic interventions in mental health practice and are encouraged to engage in class lectures, workshops, discussions, simulated learning from case studies and directed/independent study. Assessment is by coursework.

Contemporary Practice Specialist Nursing (Mental Health)

Year: 1

This module is optional

This 30 credit core module prepares postgraduate specialist nursing students to explore critically key challenges in contemporary mental health practice with specific reference to meeting the needs of people with debilitating mental health problems. The emphasis is on exploring current models of care and service delivery and evidence based clinical practice in mental health settings. Assessment is by coursework.

Principles of Care in District Nursing

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module provides District Nursing Students with the special knowledge and skills required to deliver effective care to those people with long term conditions, acute, palliative and end of life illnesses, their families and informal carers. The module content reflects the specialist role of the District Nurse and is underpinned by research, clinical guidelines, policies and strategies in the delivery of person-centred care. The students increasing knowledge base and clinical placement experience will facilitate critical thinking through reflection. This module will relate to other modules within the programme. Assessment is by 100% coursework.

The District Nurse as Manager

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module provides District Nursing students with the theory and evidence underpinning the professional role of the District Nurse in the context of management and organisation of care and service improvement to effectively manage patient care and contribute to the development of the district nursing service. The module is assessed by 100% examination.

Contemporary Issues In Specialist Community Children's Nursing

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will examine the knowledge, clinical and therapeutic skills required by children's nurses to enable them to deliver care to the child and family. It will consider those issues involved in and influencing care delivery for families whose child is affected by an illness, including various modes of assessment and delivery of care. Respecting the variety of phases of illness that may impact upon family integrity and well-being, this module facilitates critical thinking through reflection and integration of theoretical perspectives with practice experiences. Teaching and learning strategies will include formal lectures and student centred participative approaches. The module is assessed by 100% course work.

Safeguarding children for specialist community children's nurses

Year: 1

This module is optional

Safeguarding Children is a key issue for all CCN's coming into contact with children and families. This module explores their role in the recognition, assessment and referral of children in need and at risk of abuse. There is strong emphasis on collaborative working to safeguard children, ethical and legal issues and professional responsibilities in relation to record keeping and report writing.

Demonstrating impact in nursing care for people with learning disability

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module is designed to enable students to develop critical thinking abilities in order to enhance previously acquired knowledge and skills required to deliver specialist nursing care to people with learning disabilities, their families and other carers and to apply these as competent community health care nurse specialists in a range of community based settings. Assessment involves coursework, and assessment of practice in clinical placement.

Delivering new perspectives in Specialist Nursing Learning Disability Practice

Year: 1

This module is optional

This specialist module will provide students opportunities to explore a range of important professional, legal, political and ethical issues in relation to nursing care of people with learning disabilities and their families in interdisciplinary working within community and hospital settings. Students will be expected to demonstrate self awareness and proficiency in decision-making and leadership through their ability to integrate theory with practice in a changing context of care. The module is assessed by course work.

Community Practitioner Nurse Prescribing V100

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will help to prepare the Specialist Practitioner student to critically develop an active role in Community Nurse Prescribing within their area of practice. The legislative framework and professional and ethical principles which underpin prescribing practice are explored. Assessment is by a combination of coursework, examination and practice assessment document.

Standard entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

Entry Requirements

Satisfy the University’s general entry requirements; and

  • Hold a degree in Nursing or equivalent
  • or demonstrate their ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL).
  • Hold current registration with the NMC and have completed a period of experience as a registered nurse to have consolidated pre-registration outcomes.
  • Have the support of an employer for 75 days Practice Learning and the name of an appropriately qualified Supervisor and Assessor in the Practice Learning setting.
  • Have competency in written and spoken English (IELTS 7.0).
  • Applicants for the District Nursing Pathway(+ Self -funded students) are required to complete Access NI Checks.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 7.0 with no element below 7.0.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

Due to the professional requirements of this programme, normally no exemptions are permitted. In saying this, District Nursing students who have recently completed the V100/V150 Community Practitioner Nurse Prescribing Programme or the V300 Non Medical Prescribing Programme and are active prescribers are permitted to apply for exemption.

Careers & opportunities

Career options

Graduates of this programme take up posts as Specialist Nurses. Most are in Team Leadershippositions. There is 100% Employability associated with this programme.

Work placement / study abroad

All students must complete 75 days Practice Learning in an approved setting. Students must have direct interaction with patients and families in their specialist field during this period. Supervision by an expert Specialist Nurse (Supervisor and Assessor ) will occur during Practice Learning. A Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) NIPAD is required to evidence achievement of professional outcomes.

Professional recognition

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (child)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (adult)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of registration as a qualified nurse (learning disabilities).

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (mental health)


Start dates

  • September 2024

Fees and funding

2024/25 Fees

Our postgraduate fees are subject to annual increase and are currently under review.

See our tuition fees page for the current fees for 2023/24 entry.

Scholarships, awards and prizes

Philip Goodeve-Docker Award for District Nursing

Margaret Devlin Award for Diabetes Nursing

Additional mandatory costs

Access NI (enhanced disclosure) is an additional cost for Self-Funded students.

It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals, as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.

There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.

See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.


We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

For more information visit


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I have been a registered nurse for 28 years and I wanted to develop knowledge and skills in District Nursing. The Postgrad Diploma in Specialist Practice will enable me to develop the professional attributes needed to learn and prepare for practice.

Deirdre McCrory

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.


I have been registered nurse for 7 years and I have recently undertaken a Post Grad Specialist Practice in Emergency Care. I feel that this helps me to develop my knowledge and skills within my practice setting by providing continuity of care via assessing, diagnosing, implementing and evaluating the care for my patients. I also feel that it helps me ensure that the holistic care model is used in providing care to all patients within Emergency Care.

Donal Murray,

Charge Nurse,

Belfast Health Social Care Trust.

I qualified as an RMN in 2004 and maintained links with the University through postgraduate study which, to date, has included a PG Diploma in Specialist Practice and currently, I am undertaking an MSc in Specialist Nursing Practice. My studies have certainly enhanced my professional development and have also had a positive impact on colleagues, through the continued fostering of a positive learning culture within mental health nursing practice.

Martina Doherty

Western Health and Social care Trust

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