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Reconsider student intake controls

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A document named “Ensuring a sustainable supply of pharmacy graduates” produced jointly by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Health Education England (HEE) was published recently. Unfortunately, despite a majority of the 183 respondents being in favour of constructing a system to control the intake of pharmacy students, HEE and HEFCE are moving toward the introduction of a five-year degree with an integrated placement year.

Some may view this with positivity; others, like me, strongly disagree. The report states that the minority in favour of market forces controlling intake of pharmacy students were “research-intensive universities”. If that doesn’t scream “financial motive” I don’t know what else will.

A 5-year course with an integrated pre-registration placement would solve the problem for students who complete their MPharm degree but are still unable to register as a pharmacist. However, this would just lead to an oversupply of registered pharmacists. The problem has clearly still not been dealt with adequately. Some claim that a free market would result in better quality of pharmacists due to increased competition. I disagree. A lower intake of students would lead to greater competition for university places. This will increase the calibre of students entering the profession while ensuring greater confidence in the job security pharmacy can provide. Medicine is an example of this.

The only group that would profit out of this decision would be big businesses and employers (i.e. the supply of registered pharmacists exceeding demand would result in decreased salaries as desperation for employment increases). This move undermines the profession and will certainly reduce the quality of applicants. I sincerely hope that student intake control is reconsidered.

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