Pass rate gap widens for black trainees in preregistration exam

In the June 2019 assessment, 61% of black African trainees passed, compared with 91% of white British trainees.

Black African student

The difference in pass rates between black African and white British preregistration trainees taking the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration assessment has widened by four percentage points since 2018. 

The results of the June 2019 assessment, published by the GPhC in its September 2019 council papers, report that 61% of black African trainees passed the assessment, compared with 91% of white British trainees.

This 30 percentage-point gap is an increase of four percentage points on the differential for the June 2018 assessment, where 66% of black African trainees passed the assessment compared with 92% of white British trainees.

The pass rate for black African candidates is the lowest it has been in four years; in 2015, only 55% of black African candidates passed the preregistration exam.

The widening differential between candidates comes despite the GPhC publishing research in 2016 that identified several barriers for black African students, including older age and experience of explicit prejudice. This report urged pharmacy schools to have a more robust approach to equality and diversity and offer proactive support. 

Nigel Clarke, chair of the GPhC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal in February 2019 that the ongoing differential in pass rates for black African candidates was “deeply unsatisfactory”.

In January 2019, as part of a wide-scale overhaul of training standards in pharmacy, the GPhC proposed that preregistration training providers and pharmacy schools carry out an annual “review of student performance and admissions” for those with protected characteristics, such as those from minority ethnic groups. The consultation on this is ongoing. 

Elsy Gomez, a locum hospital pharmacist and president of the UK Black Pharmacists Association, said the widening differential was “heartbreaking” and “sends a clear message that something is not right in the training that black [preregistration trainees] are receiving”.

Gomez said: “I am convinced that [preregistration trainees’] experience of subtle discrimination and isolation in their training place may be playing a big role in students’ performance.” She added that the GPhC reports showing the differential “year after year and doing nothing meaningful about changing it, shows lack of interest or concern about this group of students”.

Box: Lowest-performing schools to be investigated

The GPhC says it will be launching an investigation after the gap in overall pass rates for preregistration students from the highest- and lowest-performing pharmacy schools rose by 10 percentage points in 2019, compared with 2018.

In the June 2019 assessment, preregistration students from UCL had the highest pass rate of 92.8%, while the University of Central Lancashire had a pass rate of 46.7%. For the June 2018 assessment, UCL preregistration students had the highest pass rate of 93.6% and preregistration students from the University of Central Lancashire had the lowest pass rate of 56.8%.

The GPhC said in its September council papers that it would undertake “further investigation” and would meet with the five lowest-performing schools “in the next few weeks to hear their views on the reason for the lower performance”. The five lowest-performing schools are the University of Central Lancashire (with a pass rate of 46.7%), University of Wolverhampton (47.5%), University of Brighton (51.2%), Kingston University (55.8%) and University of Portsmouth (64.6%). 

A spokesperson for the University of Wolverhampton said it was “disappointed with the registration assessment pass rates of its MPharm graduates who attempted the recent June 2019 sitting”. 

“How we prepare our students for entry to the preregistration training year is always under constant review and we are working closely with the GPhC in this regard,” they added.

  • This article was corrected on 19 September after it was made clear by the GPhC that overseas pharmacists’ assessment programmes would be excluded from their investigations into low pass rates and that the University of Portsmouth was going to be investigated.
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2019, Vol 303, No 7929;303(7929):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207058

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