Pharmacy students are to demonstrate outside the Dáil this Thursday in protest at changes to their pathway to qualification that they say will leave them €25,000 worse off over the course of their degree in comparison with their predecessors.
The sector’s regulator, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, has overseen a review process of the third-level course through which future pharmacists must graduate.
Pharmacy students and the Union of Students of Ireland will launch a campaign against the changes ahead of Thursday’s protest.
Dylan Burke is a pharmacy student at UCC who will attend Thursday’s event. He explains: “In the past the Pharmacy degree was a 4+1 setup consisting of a 4-year bachelor’s degree, followed by a 1-year masters. The final masters year was a 12-month internship, where the student was known as a 'Pre-Reg'. Students were paid between €19,000-€22,500 throughout this year in the same manner an employee would be."
Students enrolled since 2015, however, are now part of a five-year integrated Pharmacy Masters programme.
“The 12-month placement is now split, with a 4-month placement in Year 4 and an 8-month placement in Year 5,” Mr Burke said.
“Both these placements are unpaid. Students are no longer employees during these placements, as a student-tutor relationship was considered superior to an employee-employer relationship. From a student’s perspective, these two relationships are synonymous. It should be noted that students do not work on Wednesdays each week and instead must log on to a virtual learning environment to complete assignments- this is referred to as ‘protected time’. Unfortunately, most students have had to work part-time on this day to account for the non-payment,” he said.
Mr Burke said a USI survey has shown that 81% of students across UCC, Trinity, and the RCSI have had to work part-time on these days.
“Not only are the placements unpaid, but the fee for the final year has increased from €3,000 for students in all three colleges to an alarming €7,500 for UCC, €8,500 for TCD and €8,250 for RCSI,” Mr Burke said.