The number of students accepted onto MPharm courses via clearing has risen by 140% in five years, while the number of students applying to study pharmacy in the UK has fallen by more than 20% over the same time period.
Figures from the General Pharmaceutical Council show that 643 MPharm students were taken on via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) clearing system in 2016/2017 (the most recent figures available) compared with 265 in 2011/2012.
The data also show that 21,104 people applied to begin an MPharm in 2016/2017, down by more than 6,000 from the recent high of 27,448 in 2011/2012.
Nigel Ratcliffe, chair of the Pharmacy Schools Council, which represents the UK’s 30 pharmacy schools, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “More universities are going through clearing to fill their places than there have been before … the number of pharmacy schools have increased, as well as the number of student places in existing schools.
“Competition [to fill places] is much tougher today; therefore, universities need to continue to be careful that they are recruiting individuals who want to be pharmacists and that these individuals have the right qualifications and understanding of professional values.”
Clive Roberts, head of the school of pharmacy at the University of Nottingham, said all schools realised that there are fewer students applying for pharmacy and that they all have to work harder to recruit.
“Pharmacy schools are talking about this. There is competition from other subjects — medicine is one obvious area. I think in the last five to ten years there has been a lot of negative press [about] pharmacy which has come home to roost,” he said.
Duncan Craig, director of the UCL school of pharmacy in London, admitted that the “pool of talented students is reducing in size”, but said his school had not gone through clearing to fill its places.
He added: “There are almost certainly less students applying; the reasons are likely to be multiple but poor morale in some sectors of the profession, which is being communicated to applicants, is quite possibly a key consideration.”
Paul Grassby, head of the pharmacy school at the University of Lincoln, said: “I think last year nearly every pharmacy school was in clearing and it’s been an issue.”