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University College Cork UCC Quad
University College Cork UCC Quad

Students demand end to pharmacy payment ban

PHARMACY students in UCC and other institutes are calling on the Pharmacy Society of Ireland to end its ban on students receiving pay while on placement. UCC Pharmacy students have written to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland detailing the financial and mental strain this rule has caused.

A structural change in the pharmaceutical course in 2014 meant that what was previously a four-year undergraduate programme followed by a paid 12-month internship became a five-year integrated masters programme under one of three Pharmacy Schools in Ireland — UCC, Trinity and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

As a result, Pharmacy students must now complete a four-month placement in year four and an eight-month placement in year five. Both are unpaid.

The fifth-year fee has also increased significantly from €3,000 for all colleges to €7,500 in UCC, €8,500 in TCD and €9,000 in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

Under the new rules, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland insist students receive no wages. As a result, each pharmacy student is looking at a deficit of €25,000 over their degree, according to the fourth-year UCC students who penned the letter.

“Some students are having to work up to seven days every week to support themselves financially and to be able to attend placement,” they said.

“The previous course structure allowed for pharmacy students to be paid by an employer for their internship year but students are now faced with no form of income and an increased fifth-year fee. 

This has caused a significant strain on students and families both financially and mentally."

One-third of pharmacy students receive the SUSI grant, according to the students but it is unclear whether the fifth year will be covered by this, potentially leaving students in receipt of the grant to foot large fees.

“The Higher Education Authority has refused to fund the fifth year of the Pharmacy programme leaving colleges to foot the bill who have inevitably passed this onto students. 

It is paramount to act now, to remove the blanket ban on payments to students to prevent Pharmacy becoming elitist,” they said.

“To this end, students from UCC, TCD and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland are calling on the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to remove the blanket ban immediately."