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PSI statement - Master’s degree programme in pharmacy

December 20, 2018

Updated February 15, 2019

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) has received correspondence from some pharmacy students who have raised matters about the pharmacy programme they are undertaking, the integrated Master’s degree in pharmacy (or 5-year MPharm). This matter is receiving attention by us at the PSI.

The correspondence received addresses several points, not all of which are within the PSI’s remit to address. However, we are committed to continue working with the academic institutions and sector in relation to the quality of the MPharm programme to ensure the highest standards in education and training for the qualification to practise as a pharmacist.

On 24 January, the PSI accepted a report and petition from the Irish Pharmaceutical Students Association (IPSA), together with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). The PSI is considering the report in the context of its remit. In addition, the information shared on 23 January by the Schools of Pharmacy with the MPharm students and placement providers is also welcomed; that APPEL will not stipulate either non-payment or payment of the experiential learning placements, and this will be a matter for providers to consider.

The PSI is the pharmacy regulator in Ireland and is responsible for regulating pharmacists and pharmacies in the public interest. Several of the PSI’s functions under the Pharmacy Act 2007 relate to education, including that we promote and ensure the highest standards in education and training for the qualification to practise as a pharmacist, and make sure that relevant experience is gained in the course of that pharmacy education and training.

In this context, in 2010 the PSI commissioned a review of the then five-year programme of education and training for the pharmacist qualification. This review, followed by research and wide collaboration across the sector that included the Higher Education Authority, Schools of Pharmacy, students, registered pharmacists etc., over several years, resulted in a changed programme being introduced from 2015, i.e. the integrated MPharm. This programme has been designed to align the qualification to internationally recognised standards with an approach taken so that learning and practical elements occur in an integrated way. You can read more about this review and development of the programme on our website.

Legislation underpins the five-year integrated MPharm programme and it includes the programme recognition and accreditation requirements, and details about the in-service training placements for students. The legislation does not say anything about fee payments for the experiential learning placements. However, one of the educational principles underpinning the new integrated MPharm programme is the importance, and maintenance, of the student - mentor relationship and ethos, as opposed to an employer and employee relationship, and this was documented in the National Forum interim report.

The PSI is responsible for recognising and accrediting the integrated MPharm programmes currently being delivered by three universities in Ireland. The institutions, meanwhile, deliver the programmes of education and training over the five years of the programme, including student enrolment, academic coursework, sourcing and governance of placements. Course fee levels are also set by the academic institutions.

The PSI operates an accreditation process, and in doing so visits the universities. The accreditation visit includes meeting with representative students at each School of Pharmacy. The accreditation teams assess the programme of training and education against 8 accreditation standards that must be met in the delivery of the programme. One of those standards relates to students and the supports available to students. The next PSI accreditation visits are scheduled with each School of Pharmacy in early 2019, with scheduled student input sessions. The programme is still a new one and the accreditation visits provide the mechanism to assure the ongoing quality of its delivery.

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