AROUND 130 pharmacy students from University College Cork travelled to Dublin yesterday to protest against rising fees and a lack of pay during work placements.
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 (RCSI).
As a result, pharmacy students must now complete a four-month placement in year four and an eight-month placement in year five — both 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 RCSI.
Under the new rules, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) insists students receive no wages. As a result, each pharmacy student was looking at an approximate deficit of €25,000 over the course of their degree, according to UCC students who penned the letter.
However, an email to students at UCC from the head of Pharmacy in UCC yesterday confirmed that placements may now be paid or unpaid at the discretion of the employer.
“This is the main thing we’ve been fighting for for the last few years,” a UCC student told the Echo.
“The ban on paid placements has essentially been lifted.
“The atmosphere was phenomenal at the rally,” the student added.
“The students of all three colleges came together in such an organised and enthusiastic manner despite none of us previously knowing each other before.”