Only five of the 23 candidates from the university sitting the assessment for the first time passed, according to figures shared by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) in its latest council papers published last week.
This marks a drop on the 40% first-attempt pass rate at the university in September 2018, and the 51.6% pass rate for June 2019.
A spokesperson for the University of Brighton said its efforts to “widen participation” through a “very diverse graduating cohort”, as well as a “greater proportion of our graduates” choosing placements in community pharmacy settings could be potential factors.
They stressed that its students do not suffer from the pass-rate gap for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students “seen elsewhere in the sector”.
However, this “significant BAME achievement gap, and lower performance from graduates who undertake community, rather than hospital-based placements”, revealed by GPhC data for pharmacy schools across the UK, “may be impacting the overall success rates” of its own students, they said.
The university continues to improve its MPharm course, including expanding its offer with “additional numeracy preparation, and targeted study support based on early diagnostic testing, as well as a programme of employability preparation focused on the pre-registration year and registration examinations”.
Speaking exclusively to C+D last month, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said universities choosing to “widen access” to their pharmacy courses may be one of “multiple factors” behind low pre-reg exam pass rates, and the regulator is meeting with the five universities who reported the lowest June pass rates to “make sure they are interrogating their data intelligently”.
Other September pass rates
The GPhC only reports the September pass rate data for universities with at least 20 students taking the exam for the first time. In 2019 this was also the University of Central Lancashire – with 53.6% – and the University of Sunderland, which reported the highest pass rate of the three at 65.4%.
The University of Central Lancashire registered a 46.7% pass rate in the June exam and told C+D yesterday (December 9) that “while recent exam results have been disappointing”, it continues to make “significant investments” to its pharmacy course.
Its course has been “completely redesigned to reflect the increasing clinical components and wider career opportunities for graduates of the programme”.
“In addition, we are now undertaking considerable work to support students from the point of graduation on to the point of taking the registration exam a year later, including online resources, practice tests and, most recently, the development and rollout of an app [that] students have found really helpful,” faculty of clinical and biomedical sciences executive dean Professor Cathy Jackson said.
Dr Adrian Moore, head of the University of Sunderland’s school of pharmacy said: “While this year’s pass rate for the September pre-registration exam is showing a slight dip compared to previous results for this sitting, at 65.4% for ‘first attempt’ MPharm students, our graduate performance remains above the national average (61.0%).”