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University of Sussex proposes stopping pharmacy course with low uptake

The university stressed that “no decision has yet been taken” on the viability of the course
The university stressed that “no decision has yet been taken” on the viability of the course

The University of Sussex is consulting staff and students on a proposal to stop taking new pharmacy students from September 2019 due to low uptake, C+D has learned.

The consultation – announced on October 10 – questions the viability of the course, as “the demand to study pharmacy at the University of Sussex has been low over a period of time, even though every effort has been made to develop and promote the course”, the university told C+D on Monday (November 5).

“The university’s executive group decided to launch the consultation after low student recruitment to the MPharm degree for the third year running,” it said.

Director for the student experience Jayne Aldridge told C+D: “If, for the last three years, pharmacy had recruited to its target number of 50 people, we wouldn’t be here now.”

The consultation will close on November 9, and “no decision has yet been taken”, the university said. 

It stressed that students who have already started their degree will be able to complete it. “If a decision was taken not to offer the course from next year, current students would continue to be supported as they finished their degrees and graduated,” it added.

Consultation on making degree “viable”

The director of pharmacy, Bugewa Apampa, insisted that the number of students on the course – which launched in 2016 – has remained the same, and that the consultation was on “how to make [the course] viable”.

One reason for the low numbers of students on the course is that the degree has not yet been accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)*, though it is on track to be in July 2020, she said.

The university has consulted a company on how to better market the course, Professor Apampa added, and degree students have also presented their own ideas on making the course viable to university executives.

CCA: Fewer students studying pharmacy

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), which represents the UK's largest multiples, warned last month (October 15) that there has been a “decrease in students entering pharmacy schools”.

This, alongside a “significant decrease in applications to join the register from European Economic Area-trained pharmacy professionals” – and an increase in roles available – could “make it increasingly difficult for community pharmacies to recruit to certain posts in the short to medium term”.  

The number of pharmacy students has fallen 4.5% since 2013-14, from 14,599 to 13,940 in 2016-17, according to GPhC figures.

BPSA: Market is stabilising

The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) pointed out that in the years before 2013, there was a “large increase” in the number of students studying pharmacy, which rose from 13,026 in 2009-10.

The recent decrease “may be the market stabilising itself to a satisfactory level of student numbers”, BPSA public relations officer Sean Brannen told C+D.

“The number of students being accepted onto the course should reflect the opportunities and vacancies that will be available for them,” he added.

*There are seven steps to full MPharm degree accreditation and each step takes place one academic year apart. Pharmacy schools are permitted to enrol students after the third step of the process.

Why has there been a decline in pharmacy student numbers?

D Change, Community pharmacist

Thank god. There's enough pharmacy schools and there are plenty of pharmacists churning out every year. About time more schools start shutting their doors. Pharmacy is still well over supplied. We don't need more.

We need to do more outside of the schools. more to decide what our job roles 5/10 years down the line will be. Will we still be packing boxes or will we be re-trained clinicians ? That is the question we must be asking ourselves.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

Low uptake? does this mean there are not enough students applying for the course? or not enough with the correct grades? perhaps they should do what some other universities do..... CCC

Lilian Anekwe, Editorial

The GPhC states: "In our accreditation methodology all new schools are accredited ‘provisionally’ until they graduate their first cohort of students. At that point ‘provisional’ accreditation becomes ‘full’. In Sussex’s case, this will happen in 2020, if the MPharm degree is delivered as planned."

Lilian Anekwe,

Deputy editor, C+D.

Stephen Messham,

I’m not surprised considering there is another course across the road. Poor business decision!

With regards to accreditation, Sussex is a relatively new school and full accreditation is not given until a full cohort has been completed (i.e. the first lot of graduates) - GPhC gives a provisional accreditation until this time providing the schools meet standards. 

Super Locum,

The article states the first cohort started in 2016 and is on track to be gphc accredited by 2020 when they graduate.

Super Locum,

The article states the first cohort started in 2016 and is on track to be gphc accredited by 2020 when they graduate.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

To answer the question posed by the C&D, I expect it is due to the over-supply in recent times having an adverse effect on wages. In addition, reduction in remuneration will have made it less attractive. However, the bit in this report I found surprising was that the course is not GPhC accredited. Why would you recruit someone whose training wasn't appropriately accredited?

H Saw, Community pharmacist

I am very surprised too, realising that there are actually pharmacy courses not accrediated by GPhC?! Why are they not accrediated? Is their programme not meeting GPhC standards? Are their graduates on par with those from other universities? Does it matter when come into job application?

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