Essex University is launching the first ever pre-registration masters degrees in nursing. The courses will offer a fast-track alternative to the traditional three-year route into the profession. Starting this September, there will be two programmes - one in adult nursing, the other in mental-health nursing. The idea is to encourage graduates of other subjects, such as biology and psychology, to enter nursing. The fees will be met by the Government, and help with living expenses is available. Essex is also launching a masters in physiotherapy, leading to registration with the relevant professional bodies. Students on all three courses will spend time learning together. This is part of a trend in higher education towards "common learning", which is about pooling resources and breaking down barriers between disciplines. The courses will combine campus life with clinical placements: the nursing students will spend almost 2,000 hours in settings including hospitals and GPs' surgeries; the physiotherapy students will spend 1,000 hours off-campus.

* Baroness Cox, Bournemouth University's former chancellor, has singled out Russian and Nigerian students to benefit from a new scholarship in her name. People from these countries who want to take a masters-level course at the university from September this year will be able to apply for the funds, which will cover fees and some living costs. Lady Cox is noted for her humanitarian and human- rights work, and is particularly interested in Russia and Nigeria. One award will be made each year to the brightest person who applies. The chosen scholar will get the chance to visit Lady Cox at the House of Lords during their degree. More information for international students who wish to apply to Bournemouth may be found at international_students

* The Shakespeare Institute Players, a group of postgraduate students from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, are helping schoolchildren to get to grips with the works of the Bard. They are running workshops this month and next for schools in Stratford, Birmingham and further afield. The sessions are open to all secondary schools in the country for a nominal fee. "We are keen to show younger people the brilliance behind Shakespeare's plays and to help them enjoy his work in performance," says Jessica Foster, the president of the players. "I clearly remember when I understood for the first time the importance of stage directions, speech nuances and theatrical space." This understanding, she says, increases students' interest in their studies. The Shakespeare Institute is part of the English department at the University of Birmingham. It offers a variety of postgraduate courses, and its students regularly attend theatrical performances of Shakespeare's plays and mount their own productions. For further information about the Institute, see Jessica Foster may be contacted on 07775 625514.