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BPSA concerned pharmacy courses ‘at risk’ after Sussex degree closure

The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) is concerned other courses are “at risk” following the University of Sussex's decision to close its degree.

The university announced last Friday (December 14) that it will not take new students onto its pharmacy degree from September 2019, due to low uptake.

It launched a consultation with students and staff in October, after low student recruitment to the course for the third year in a row.

Responding to the closure today, the BPSA told C+D it is “concerned that the downturn in the number of applicants may lead other courses to be at risk”.

“We recognise that reports have shown that student numbers are lower than anticipated in some schools,” the BPSA said. It hopes to “be consulted prior to any considerations of closures”, but stressed it is not aware of any other universities considering the same move.

The number of pharmacy students fell 4.5% between 2013-14 and 2016-17, from 14,599 to 13,940, according to the most recent published GPhC figures from two cohorts ago. 

The BPSA has written to the University of Sussex requesting that students already on its pharmacy course are “treated fairly” and their education safeguarded, it said. The university said all current students will be able to complete their degrees.

Students “distraught” about closure

The director of pharmacy at the University of Sussex, Bugewa Apampa, told C+D the course was closing because it had not recruited its maximum capacity of 50 students a year.

The university had accepted 30 students a year on average since its first intake in September 2016, “which is aligned with empirical evidence showing that universities working towards full accreditation recruit fewer students than established ones”.

In November, Professor Apampa suggested one reason for the low numbers on the course was that the degree had not yet been accredited by the GPhC, though it is on track to be by July 2020.

The university said the GPhC has sent “written assurances to students that they will work with the university on the accreditation process for the MPharm course”, despite its closure.

Professor Apampa told C+D she had “advanced plans” to boost recruitment, and that staff and students, as well as pharmacists and parents, had been “positive and in support of retaining” the course.

Some students had been “distraught” about the closure and felt “mental anguish and distress” that they would graduate without an accredited degree, Professor Apampa said.

Sussex: We want courses students want to study

The University of Sussex’s pro vice chancellor of planning and resources, Professor Stephen Shute, said: “We want to ensure that any courses that we offer now and in the future are in line with what students actually want to study.”

“We believe it is in the university’s long-term interest to continue to focus our energies on our strengths.”

Why are the numbers of students studying pharmacy falling?

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