Unauthorised student nurse absenteeism in higher education troubles many university lecturers. Anecdotally, absenteeism is occasionally raised as an issue by attending students who resent others "getting away" with non-attendance and some policy documents appear to suggest that attendance should be mandated. This paper argues against enforced attendance in higher education and challenges those who would mandate attendance to explain and justify their position. Drawing on a range of nursing and non-nursing material we here discuss some of the literature on attendance, absenteeism, effort or time spent in study and grade attainment. Informed by this admittedly partial review we maintain that the evidence linking grade attainment with attendance and study effort is less conclusive than intuition might initially suggest. We note that enforcing attendance apparently runs counter to important pedagogic (humanistic and androgogic) principles. We propose that responses to absenteeism cannot be separated from questions of 'harm' and we suggest that lecturers should refrain from associating non-attendance with unprofessional behaviour and poor professionalization.
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