Deciding to accept a place as a first-year student for a pharmacy course undergoing accreditation might seem like a gamble to many. I had received an offer to study at an established school of pharmacy, but I chose instead to make a little history and be part of the first ever intake for the University of Sussex’s new pharmacy degree course.
On clearing day, I knew I was choosing between a pharmacy school that already had accreditation and one yet to be accredited; a pharmacy school that had been around for many years and one that was starting from scratch; and between a pharmacy school that had statistics on their graduates and one with no prior statistics or graduates.
Regardless, I had good reason to choose the latter over the former. I did not see the lack of full accreditation as a problem, as I was certain the university would do its best to acquire it — this could only benefit me. Even though this would be the first year of the course I knew the university would request feedback from students, allowing me to make an important contribution in how the course is run.
The second reason was class size. Most pharmacy schools have over 100 students in each year group — some have double that number; but at Sussex I ended up on a course with just over 30 students.
Logistics was also a key factor. Having great transport links from Sussex’s campus to and from Brighton, as well as to and from my home in south London, was important.
Admittedly, once I arrived at Sussex I worried that I hadn’t made the right decision. However, those feelings started to subside after I signed up as an organiser for the PharmaC society and even more so after the White Coat Ceremony — a welcome the course’s staff extends to its new intake of students. We pledged to uphold professional standards and received our white coats and a copy of the British National Formulary to remind us of the life-long learning we would undertake as pharmacists.
While listening to Ashok Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and individuals from the British Students Pharmaceutical Association (BPSA) address the audience, it became clear just how much time, effort and passion the faculty had put into getting the course up and running. Slipping on my white coat for the first time sealed the deal; I was starting to like Sussex.
During my first year, the certainty that I had made the right decision was assured. One of the reasons I have come to love the pharmacy course here is because not everything we do is specifically related to pharmacy.
We have received training on first aid and homelessness awareness, and we have been able to volunteer at Chailey Heritage Special Needs School. The skills and knowledge we have gained from these experiences will help us to develop as healthcare professionals and people.
Teaching staff have always sought feedback, both positive and negative, to improve the course for students. We have witnessed this put into action within a few weeks, sometimes within the same day. The students have built a unique relationship with staff where we have every confidence in their ability to achieve accreditation.
Due to the small class sizes, we have received a lot of attention and support from our lecturers, who all have an open-door policy, and provide us with study support or pastoral care when needed. With workshops of just 15 students and at least two tutors with experience from different pharmacy disciplines per workshop, there is always someone on hand to answer questions, whether they are related to chemistry or clinical pharmacy.
And the Sussex campus proved as easily accessible to the city as I had hoped. There are great places to eat and the beach is close by for that evening stroll when you need to clear your head.
Now that my first year is over, I can say that I have loved studying pharmacy at Sussex. It has opened so many doors for me, and I am able to see the clear career path ahead.