Pharmacy students to hold Dáil protest over qualification changes

Pharmacy students to hold Dáil protest over qualification changes

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.

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