Education plays a key role in recruitment of health workforce to rural and remote locations. In Australia, Schools of Nursing have set up a variety of educational programmes to encourage rural workforce choices. These programmes include rural campuses and short-term rural placement programmes out of urban campuses. This study compares the relative workforce impacts of rural campus versus short-term rural placements out of urban campus. The single outcome measure - rural or urban location after graduation - showed that the rural school graduated a significantly higher proportion of rural-working graduates (chi(2) 4.46, p = 0.04). However there was no difference in the rural workforce choices of students from rural backgrounds, irrespective of their university location (chi(2) = 1.45, p = 0.23). We conclude that both rural universities and affirmative action for selecting rural students into nursing programmes are effective workforce strategies, but that rural campuses have the added benefit of encouraging under-represented rural students to access university education.