Magazine article Times Higher Education

Spare the Special Pleading

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Spare the Special Pleading

Article excerpt

It is perhaps unsurprising that Vikesh Kakad, president of the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association, and John Smart, chairman of the Pharmacy Schools Council, fear the spectre of an increase in the number of students studying pharmacy in the UK ("Pharmacy recruitment may be unhealthy in high doses", News, 25 October). For many years, the restriction on places has limited the supply of trained pharmacists, leading to a situation in which the profession has been able to ensure that its members command high salaries. In turn, this has driven demand for places among school-leavers, and the limited number of slots has substantially inflated the A-level qualifications required for entry. This situation has been to the great advantage of those fortunate enough to enter the profession, but to the detriment of almost everyone else.

Smart notes approvingly that the profession wishes to instigate a statutory body that would control entry to undergraduate pharmacy courses. But such a body would be inimical to widening-access ideals and would maintain a situation in which the long-standing practice of restricting student numbers imposes needless costs on the healthcare system. In parallel, the profession is also seeking to persuade Hefce and the Department of Health to standardise UK pharmacy degrees as five-year courses. This would bolster its reputation but cost students and the public purse.

It is far from clear that the profession needs the AAB students Smart refers to, and it is unconvincing to claim that pharmacy training must be long-winded and expensive. …

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