The month-long Pharmacy MPharm consultation has now ended. The consultation over whether the course should be discontinued lasted from October 9 to November 9, with the final decision being decided by the University Executive Group (UEG) in week twelve of academic study. The course underwent consultation due to low student enrolment numbers.

A meeting was held on October 31 to discuss the consultation. Present at the meeting were pharmacy students from all years, students from other courses, course faculty, Ms Jayne Aldridge, Director for the Student Experience, and Dr Kelly Coate, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education and Students.

At this meeting, Dr Coate and Ms. Aldridge explained that, due to low enrolment numbers, the course could be closed for new applicants in September 2019, with Ms Aldridge stating, “If for the last three years Pharmacy had recruited to its target number of 50 people, we wouldn’t be here now.”

They did, however, reiterate that the course will be ‘taught out’ for current students meaning students currently on the course will be taught to the end of their degree despite the outcome of the current consultation.

Director of Pharmacy, Professor Bugewa Apampa, told The Badger that the decision to introduce the Pharmacy MPharm course was based on a maximum intake of 50 students per year.

However, the university representatives said that this was a “target”. Both Dr Coate and Ms Aldridge stressed that the Pharmacy course is consistently undersubscribed, stating that a target of 50 student enrolments a year is in place.

Professor Apampa said: “We were aware of a cap. A cap of 50 wasn’t a target” and that the cap of 50 was based on the size and facilities of the Pharmacy infrastructure.

Ms Aldridge replied to this saying “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.”

The Badger has since asked Dr Coate and Ms Aldridge to clarify whether 50 students is a target or a maximum, and was told by a University of Sussex spokesperson “We always set targets for courses.”

Concerns have been expressed over  communication between the UEG, who are responsible for making the decision, and the students and faculty of Pharmacy MPharm.

Professor Apampa, told The Badger “I have neither had the opportunity to discuss with the UEG, the GPhC accreditation requirements for the MPharm and the importance of the SDF for Pharmacy, nor have I had the opportunity to share our plans to boost recruitment into pharmacy as we work towards attaining the full six-year accreditation in what is actually less than two years remaining of a seven year process.”

The students also claimed that meetings had been arranged by the university that happened to clash with teaching time, however, Ms Aldridge and Dr Coate 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.

Professor Apampa went on to say that “The unintended consequences of this grossly premature consultation during the MPharm course development process (years 3 and 4) is that valuable time has been lost due to the severe stresses of [sic] students and staff are placed under”

A University spokesperson responded to this claim saying “We know that this is a difficult time for everyone involved. Our guiding principle has been to ensure we conduct the consultation and any resulting decision with as little impact as possible on existing students.”

President of the Pharmacy Society, Olubusola Oluwole-Moore, told The Badger, “During the consultation, neither the mental or academic state of all Pharmacy students have been put into consideration” and that “Questions about how the university can guarantee the same quality of active learning for all current three cohorts after the consultation were never answered by the University Representatives.”

A University spokesperson responded to this saying “Our students are our highest priority and a lot of consideration has gone into support for those students who are currently studying.

“To be very clear, we are committed to ensuring the continuation of the high level of education for the course regardless of the outcome of this consultation.

“Should the University ultimately decide to close the course to new entrants, we will be fully supporting our existing Pharmacy students, including teaching out the course and supporting them into the workplace or further study. The University is also continuing to work towards accrediting the course with the General Pharmaceutical Council.”

Olubusola also stated that she believed there is a “Lack of transparency from the University about the reasons for Stopping Student recruitment for the Pharmacy course from 2019.

“During the initial meeting, it was mentioned to students that the decision for the consultation was based on numbers of students enrolled over the three years however in the recent meeting, students were informed that this is because the university is going through a ‘period of financial uncertainty’”.

The University spokesperson concluded that “We know that this is a difficult time for everyone involved. Our guiding principle has been to ensure we conduct the consultation and any resulting decision with as little impact as possible on existing students.”

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