The government has no record of how it reached its decision to reject a cap on student numbers, C+D has learned.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) held two meetings in May and June 2014 to discuss controlling the intake of pharmacy students, but it had “no recorded information” about who attended or what was discussed, it said in a response to a Freedom of Information request from C+D, received on March 2.
The final decision to reject any form of limit on student numbers was made outside of these two meetings, it added.
Last October, universities minister Greg Clark announced that the government would not restrict student numbers, because a cap would not fit with its “objectives for pharmacy”.
Its decision flew in the face of feedback from the government consultation on the issue, which revealed that most respondents favoured some form of limit on student numbers to prevent the oversupply of pharmacy graduates from worsening.
A 'superficial' decision
Pharmacists’ Defence Association chairman Mark Koziol branded BIS’s decision-making process “superficial”. Choosing to leave student intakes uncapped “in a couple of informal un-minuted meetings” indicated its “lack of seriousness” when making the decision, he added.
Graham Phillips, owner of Manor Pharmacy Group (Wheathampstead) Ltd, said the lack of information on how BIS had reached its decision was “not exactly transparent”. Claims that the department had not taken any minutes during the meetings were “simply not credible”, he stressed.
Pre-registration student Zohib Sheikh told C+D that the government’s lack of transparency was “disgusting”. “All the major [health] professions have their student numbers capped, so why not pharmacy?” he said.
C+D submitted its Freedom of Information request on February 4 in response to a statement from BIS last year that its decision was based on “sources of evidence” other than a Higher Education Funding Council and Health Education England consultation on the topic. At the time, the department refused to reveal any details of this other evidence.
Read Pharmacy Voice's reaction to the news here.
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