Are too many pharmacy graduates diminishing the profession?

pharmacy graduates - empty chairs in a lecture theatre

Australia is producing too many pharmacy graduates, thus diminishing the profession, writes NAPSA past president Xavier Agostino…

In 1997 there were six universities nationwide, each offering a pharmacy program.

Since that time we have witnessed an explosion in the number of pharmacy schools and courses in this country. Currently we have 18 universities offering a total of 25 pharmacy programs.

This dramatic rise poses many questions, some of which include: are we producing too many pharmacy graduates? Are these programs sustainable? Are these programs producing quality or just quantity?

But the big question for me is this: is this rise compromising the image of the pharmacy profession? And for me, the answer is yes.

A few years ago, top high school graduates wanting to enter the health industry had a tough decision to make and asked themselves: do I want to study medicine, pharmacy or dentistry? The entry scores for these courses were almost on par.

These courses all had a particular “glow” about them. High school graduates knew only the best of the best would be granted entry.

However one thing is certain, now: pharmacy schools are no longer attracting the upper echelon of high school graduates.

Pharmacy courses have lost their glow and we are now granting entry to the second and third best.

Furthermore, pharmacy courses are being viewed as stepping stones into medicine and dentistry courses.

Once upon a time only students graduating in the 98th and 99th percentiles had the privilege of considering undertaking a pharmacy degree. Student graduating in the 75th to 80th percentile now have this privilege.

The rise in the number of pharmacy schools and programs has pushed the entry requirements down not just a little bit, but significantly.

Can a high school student graduating in the 75th to 80th percentile offer the same quality professional services to patients as student graduating in the 98th and 99th percentile? I will leave that for you to decide.

It is no secret that universities are a business. A university will not offer or continue to offer a program that is not profitable.

Personally, I am very concerned about the rise of what I see as “exotic” pharmacy programs. These programs include a two-year graduate entry course with a short bridging program and a midyear intake program that will jam the traditional four year program into three and a half years.

The way these programs are advertised makes you think becoming a pharmacist is easy.

These universities will justify these programs by saying they are offering a new, innovative way of learning.

I argue that they are just another way to lure students to a pharmacy program that ensures those university cogs keep turning.

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