Data from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) suggest that nearly 15% of students withdrew from the first year of the MPharm during the 2020/2021 academic year.
A total of 4,148 new students started the first year of the pharmacy degree in 2020/2021. The following academic year, 3,544 students started the second year of the degree, suggesting that 604 (14.6%) of the original intake had not continued their pharmacy studies. The figures do not include those retaking the year for any reason.
The GPhC noted that the data do not include students who may have decided to defer their second year after having passed their first year.
During the 2019/2020 academic year, 3,743 students started the first year of the MPharm and 3,533 began their second year in 2020/2021 — indicating that 5.7% either dropped out or moved to another course.
Data from the Student Loans Company for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed that for the academic year 2020/2021, dropout rates overall — measured between August and February of the academic year across all years and all courses — had fallen compared with the previous academic year. During 2020/2021, a total of 14,045 people who were receiving student loans dropped out of university courses in those nations: a decrease of 13.8% compared to the 16,300 who left in 2019/2020.
However, as of February 2022, 18,321 people had dropped out during the 2021/2022 academic year — a 30% increase on the previous year.
The 4,148 students beginning their MPharm in 2020/2021 was an increase of 10.8% on the 3,743 who embarked on a pharmacy degree the previous year. This was the second year in a row where the MPharm intake rose by more than 10%.
Pharmacists were added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list on 4 March 2021. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which collects evidence in compiling the annual shortage list, said that two stakeholders suggested there was “a national shortage in this occupation owing to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”.
A spokesperson for the GPhC said it had not carried out any research into the large proportion of students not continuing into the second year of their MPharm in 2020/2021.
“We expect there are likely to be a number of factors influencing the increase in the number of people choosing to leave the course during or just after year one,” they added.
The Pharmacy Schools Council said it did not want to comment on the figures.