A heated meeting between university staff and Pharmacy students took place today about the future of the Pharmacy MPharm course at Sussex University.
Students voiced their dissatisfaction with the consultation process which is currently ongoing and university representatives were present to answer their concerns and questions.
The Badger previously covered the consultation process which could lead to Pharmacy course enrollment being stopped from September 2019.
Present at the meeting were pharmacy students from all years, student representatives, students from other courses, course faculty, a representative of MP Caroline Lucas and two members of university staff.
Jayne Aldridge, Director for the Student Experience, and Dr Kelly Coate, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education and Students, met with pharmacy students to discuss the future of their course.
They reiterated that the course will be ‘taught out’ for current students but that, due to low enrollment numbers, the course could be closed for new applicants in September 2019. This means that students currently on the course will be taught to the end of their degree despite the outcome of the current consultation.
However, this is an obligation that the university must fulfil. The 2018-19 Terms and Conditions for undergraduate students at The University of Sussex states that the university must provide a full course or provide an alternative.
They read: “Once you have registered as a student of the University, we will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver your course as per the terms of the contract.” and they state the university will “use all reasonable endeavours to transfer you to a suitable replacement course for which you are qualified”.
Students were visibly upset at the prospect of course enrolment being dropped from 2019 even after Jayne Aldridge reassured them that this would not affect their degrees directly.
Many gave moving, personal accounts of what the course meant to them.
Students approached Jayne Aldridge and Dr Kelly Coate about their concerns which included: the risk this may pose to the course gaining accreditation, the length of the consultation process which they believe has not been long enough, and meetings arranged by the university that happened to clash with teaching time.
The students also criticised Coate and Aldridge for communication breakdowns between the university, Pharmacy students and pharmacy staff, including Dr Buge Apampa, Director of Pharmacy.
Aldridge and Coates stressed their good intentions and that they did not intend to organise meetings for times that students weren’t available, citing their cooperation with the timetabling team.
One student believes that cancellation of the course could potentially have a negative effect on the opinions of their future employers, who may question course quality if the course is dropped.
Jayne Aldridge, addressing this concern, told the students that: “There isn’t a mark which gets put over a course that isn’t taught anymore, by employers”.
Upon justifying the potential cancellation of the course in 2019, Dr Kelly Coate told the meeting “The university is entering financially uncertain times”. Both Coate and Aldridge stressed that the Pharmacy course is consistently undersubscribed, stating that a target of 50 student enrollments a year is in place.
Students say that they were not aware this was a target and were under the impression that this was simply an upper limit for Pharmacy student numbers.
Buge Apampa, Director of Pharmacy said: “We were aware of a cap. A cap of 50 wasn’t a target”. According to Dr Apampa, Professor Clare Mackie, ex Pro-Vice Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, agreed to this cap of fifty based on the size and facilities of the Pharmacy infrastructure.
Dr Apampa also mentioned that the cap may have been revised to 100 students but only when the new Life Sciences building was complete adding “It was a cap, never a target”. The building is no longer being constructed after a decision in February 2018 to axe the plans.
Jayne Aldridge said: “There’s a difference of views between different staff in the university about the information I’ve been given, the information Buge’s got, around this summer what was clearly outlined as to whether it was a cap or a target.”
Jayne Aldridge added: “If for the last three years, Pharmacy had recruited to its target number of 50 people, we wouldn’t be here now.”
President of The Pharmacy Society, Olubusola Oluwole-Moore, also voiced concerns about Pharmacy staff leaving the department if the course is eventually cancelled and the impact this could have on students currently abroad or those who need to retake a year.
The consultation continues and will end on November 9. Further meetings are to take place between the university and Pharmacy staff.
Written by Matthew Nicholls and Jessica Hubbard