The number of students beginning an MPharm degree rose by more than 10% for the 2020–2021 academic year, the second year in a row that the increase has topped 10%.
Data provided to The Pharmaceutical Journal by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on 20 March 2021 show that 4,148 new students began the first year of the MPharm in autumn 2020, compared with the 3,743 who started the degree in the 2019–2020 academic year. This represents an increase of 10.8%.
Between 2018–2019 and 2019–2020, the number of students beginning the MPharm rose by 11%.
However, it has previously been reported that the proportion of first year MPharm students who ultimately go on to graduate had fallen from 92% in 2014–2015 to 86% in 2018–2019.
GPhC data from 2019–2020 show that 3,533 students completed their first year, indicating that 210 either left university or moved to another course.
Andrew Thompson, chair of the Pharmacy Schools Council Admissions Group, said that there had been a “background rise in the number of applications of around 5–10%” over the past year, and that this “may have been part of the increase in numbers”.
He added that the regrading of A-levels in summer 2020 also led to several institutions overshooting targets for admission, and that “the increases in applications also appears to be regional, with some schools doing better than others”.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it was “really reassuring” to see the data from 2020–2021.
“The impact and contribution of pharmacy professionals has been evident throughout COVID-19 and we have seen the demand for pharmacists’ expertise increase, particularly in primary care.
“We hope that this will lead to a renewed and increased interest in a pharmacy career amongst school leavers.
“The new GPhC Initial Education and Training Standards will create further opportunities to strengthen the capabilities and contribution of the pharmacy workforce even further and we hope that the necessary investment will follow to realise these benefits,” she added.
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”.
The MAC added that there was a “noticeable upward trend” in unfilled vacancies in recent years, and that stakeholders had reported particular difficulty recruiting in the south east of England.
Read more: There is an official shortage of pharmacists: what now?