Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 54

Submission from the School of Pharmacy, University of London

  A response to the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee inquiry into the Government's decision to phase out support given to institutions for students taking second qualifications of an equivalent or lower level (ELQs) to their first qualifications made by the School of Pharmacy, University of London.


  1.  The School of Pharmacy, University of London, proposes that pharmacy must be included in the list of exempt subjects.

  2.  Planned post-graduate professional development courses, based on a progression of post-graduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters qualifications should be exempted from the ELQ proposals.


  1.  The School of Pharmacy was established in 1842 by the (then) Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. It became part of the University of London in 1925 and received its Royal Charter in 1952.

  2.  The School of Pharmacy is the only specialist education institution dedicated to pharmacy. Its mission is to lead in the provision of education and research in pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences relevant to patients and healthcare practice, medicines discovery and development, and society. The School has an outstanding track record in education, being the only school of pharmacy to have achieved professional accreditation with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society without conditions, and has been top-rated for research in all research assessment exercises. It has embraced widening participation and has been particularly successful in meeting the needs of students in London and the South East.

  3.  Under the ELQ proposals the School of Pharmacy is ranked 4th in the proportion (15.3%) of mainstream teaching funding to be withdrawn. It is exceeded only by Birkbeck College, London Business School and The Open University in institutional financial impact.


  4.  The case for exemption for pharmacy and post-graduate professional development programmes has been put forward by the Council of University Heads of Pharmacy. We strongly support this case and in this submission make additional points relevant to our institution.


  5.  The School of Pharmacy strongly agrees with the views put forward by Universities UK to the HEFCE consultation about the lack of prior consultation with the sector, the "fining" of institutions for decisions they made legitimately and in good faith, and the serious destabilising effect on specialist institutions including the School of Pharmacy, Birkbeck College, the Open University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Institute of Education.

  6.  The anomaly of pharmacy not being included in the list of exempt subjects along with all the other health professions has been articulated by the Council of University Heads of Pharmacy. Exemption of pharmacy (the MPharm entry qualification) would mitigate about 60% of the financial impact on the School of Pharmacy.

  7.  As a specialist institution dedicated to pharmacy, there are only limited options available to the School of Pharmacy to make good the lost income from the withdrawal of ELQ funding. As noted in the House of Lords debate on 3 December (Hansard 696(17),1568), the School's financial structure will be seriously destabilised by the loss of income which can only have a negative impact on its ability to continue to contribute at the highest levels to UK Health Services research and teaching.

  8.  Pharmacy is a vocational healthcare profession and the 4-year undergraduate Master of Pharmacy degree qualification is the only route to registering with the regulator for pharmacy, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Pharmacists are on the UK Skills Shortage Occupations List and the shortage of pharmacists, not least in the hospital sector, is widely recognised.

  9.  Many of the students highlighted as ELQ at the School of Pharmacy have "first" qualifications in the pharmaceutical area, but the MPharm is the only qualification leading to registration as a pharmacist. First degrees in chemistry, medicinal or pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology or related biomedical science predominate.

  10.  As an institution in London, the School of Pharmacy forms part of disproportionate "London and South East effect" whereby more than 40% of ELQs are in this region. We believe this reflects the diversity of the region. Twenty per cent of the undergraduate student numbers affected by the ELQ proposals relate to graduates from Iran, Uganda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Iraq. These students have either been granted British citizenship, refugee status or indefinite/exceptional leave to remain. Seventy per cent of these students are women who for religious and cultural reasons would not be permitted to study away from home.

  11.  Approximately 40% of the proposed withdraw of funding relates to the School's work, in partnership with the NHS, on the post-registration professional development of pharmacists. Here the ELQ proposals run completely counter to Government policy on skills, professional development and life-long learning. Within the NHS, the Agenda for Change career framework is based on escalating post-graduate qualifications (the Knowledge and Skills Framework). Under the current proposals, PG Certificates, Diplomas and Masters are bundled together as equivalent. However, in the context of planned professional development programmes there is very clear academic progression between each award and for this reason they must be exempted. A practitioner (not just in pharmacy) has to be able to develop from a PG Certificate to a Diploma and then to a Masters.

  12.  The work that the School of Pharmacy is leading, in partnership with other higher education institutions and the NHS, has been mapped on to all Government policies on health and clearly supports the "employer engagement" agenda, yet stands to be undermined by the ELQ proposal.

January 2008

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