The researchers did not follow individual students, only the schools that the cohort attended. There is a multitude of reasons why students fail the assessment, some of which I listed in a recent letter (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2015;294:631).
When I was marking some first-year MPharm resit papers, it caused me to reflect that 50 years ago at Chelsea School of Pharmacy (now King’s College London) there was a thinning out of both first-year and second-year students who failed the end-of-year examination and the subsequent resit, which resulted in no less than 25% of my fellow undergraduates being told to leave each year or repeat the year. This, I understand, rarely occurs now.
In addition, before 1965, students could opt to undertake their preregistration year before or after attending a school of pharmacy or, as I did, six months before and six months after. I fell in love with pharmacy immediately but if the reverse had occurred I could have changed my career path much more easily than nowadays.
Peter Noyce is absolutely spot on when he says in the news item that the failure of the exam is a serious issue financially and career-wise for the individuals concerned.
However, perhaps this phenomenon of failure is a good example of market forces, my favoured option, controlling the number of pharmacists entering the profession.