League table: Which pharmacy schools smashed the registration assessment?
How did students from Britain’s pharmacy schools fare in the June 2023 registration assessment? See C+D’s analysis of the results below…
Council papers prepared for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) October 12 sitting revealed that 77% or 2,150 of the 2,805 candidates that sat the registration assessment in June 2023 passed, which it said was “comparable” to previous summer assessments.
Of those sitting for the first time, 79% of the 2,353 candidates passed. The pass rate for second time sitters was 50%, while the pass rate for third time sitters was 59%.
Many more female students than male students sat the registration assessment for the first time in June - 1,693 to 629 - and 80% of female students passed compared to 78% of male students.
And the vast majority of first-time sitters came from community pharmacy, with 70% of 1,222 candidates from the sector passing. While students coming from hospital pharmacy achieved a higher pass rate of 95%, this was from a much smaller number of candidates at 626.
The GPhC's council papers revealed the average registration exam pass rate for first-time sitters at the different pharmacy schools across England, Wales and Scotland.
Data was not provided for the two pharmacy schools in Northern Ireland – Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University – although according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), a total of 125 candidates who sat the assessment in Northern Ireland achieved an overall pass rate of 93%. C+D has contacted PSNI for a breakdown by pharmacy school.
But how did each pharmacy school in England, Wales and Scotland fare? Click on our interactive graph to see how pass rates have changed since 2021…
The University of Bath has kept its spot as the pharmacy school with the highest share of students passing the June 2023 registration assessment in Britain, according to the GPhC council papers.
Bath achieved a 96% pass rate, with 53 of its 55 candidates sitting the papers for the first time qualifying from the June 2023 assessment.
In 2022, when it also ranked highest, 99% of its candidates passed the June assessment.
On the other end of the spectrum, the University of Lincoln registered the lowest pass rate for the June 2023 exam, with only half (50%) of its 30 students passing the registration exam.
While the GPhC did not publish Lincoln’s figures for 2022 because it had too few students sitting the exam, 87% of its 23 candidates passed in 2021.
In contrast, the Guardian’s 2024 university guide – published in September – placed Lincoln at the top of the table for “best UK universities for pharmacy and pharmacology”.
But the Guardian said that its rankings determine which schools offer students "the best experience" rather than which are "strongest in academic research".
The next worst performing pharmacy school was the University of Central Lancashire, which achieved a 55% pass rate from its 58 students.
The university has been one of the worst performing pharmacy schools over the last three years – in 2022, 55% of students passed, while 52% of students passed in 2021.
Most pharmacy schools in Britain saw their pass rates decline from 2022, with Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University seeing the sharpest drop – from 89% of its 64 students passing in 2022 to 75% of its 80 students passing in 2023.
However, Kingston University was among those who bucked this trend, seeing the biggest growth in pass rate compared to last year. In 2022, 75% of its 83 students sitting the exam passed but in 2023, this rose to an 89% pass rate for its 55 students sitting the exam.
And the University of Nottingham was the school that produced the highest number of successful candidates. Of its bumper class of 161 students, 147 – or 91% – passed the registration assessments. This was the fourth best pass rate this year.
On the other hand, the University of Sussex had the smallest class reported by the GPhC, which only published data from schools with 15 or more students. The university had 14 of its 18 students (78%) pass the June assessment.
The GPhC said that since the June 2022 sitting, it has “engaged” with three schools with a “concerningly low” pass rate, which had been “subject to reaccreditation”.
A spokesperson for the regulator told C+D that these are the University of Central Lancashire, Brighton and Wolverhampton.
The report added that pass rates at three other pharmacy schools – Hertfordshire, Lincoln and Portsmouth – were “a cause for concern” and that the GPhC would “take further action” after evaluating these schools’ performance in the November assessments.
The regulator said that it planned to release “a more comprehensive report and analysis” on registration assessment results that will examine performance “over a period of time”.
This will help it identify whether its interventions were having “the desired effect”, it added.
Pharmacy schools: Pride and action plans
Dr Clare Lawrence, dean of the school of pharmacy and biomedical sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, which had the second lowest pass rate, told C+D that the school has been “working with” the GPhC.
She said that it had produced “an action plan” in order to “improve” its graduates’ pass rates in registration assessments.
The University of Brighton said it was "pleased to have seen a significant improvement" in its pre-registration pass rate, which "reflects the dedication of staff and students at Brighton".
"The accreditation comments mostly relate to transitioning students, all of which we have addressed, and we will continue to build on the improvements we have achieved in the coming years," a spokesperson told C+D.
C+D also approached the universities of Hertfordshire, Lincoln, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton for comment.
Meanwhile, Professor Philip Ingham, head of the department of life sciences at the University of Bath, told C+D that the university was “delighted” to have again attained the highest registration assessment pass rate in the country.
He said that it was “a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students” and commended the university’s “outstanding” and “committed” pharmacy school staff.
“We look forward to seeing our graduates who have passed the registration assessment go on to enjoy successful careers in their chosen field,” he added.
A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham, whose students achieved the second highest pass rate in the assessments, said that its staff were “proud” of the graduates that had attained “such a high level of success in their professional exams”.
The spokesperson added that it was a reflection of the school’s emphasis on “clinically focused experiential learning and the quality of our teaching”.