Pharmacy students on work placements “may either be paid or unpaid” in the future, according to Trinity Professor Stephen Byrne.
A growing campaign to allow pharmacy students to receive pay while on work placements has gained attention in recent months, as the Irish Pharmaceutical Society’s (PSI) decision that the student-tutor relationship be prioritised over one of employee-employer was called into question.
In an email sent to pharmacy students, Byrne said that the PSI “clarified that both the legislation governing the integrated MPharm programme and the PSI accreditation standards do not stipulate either non-payment or payment of these experiential learning placements.”
According to Byrne, the PSI issued this statement at a meeting with representatives from Trinity, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), and University College Cork (UCC) on January 7.
Byrne stated: “Heads of Schools agreed that, in light of the clarification, placements in the future may either be paid or unpaid.”
The institutions are “acutely aware of student concerns and are deeply concerned about the financial burden imposed on students by the new model of pharmacy education,” noted Byrne.
The pharmacy course previously consisted of a four year Bachelor’s degree and one-year Masters course during which the student would undertake a twelve-month placement.
However, in 2015, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland introduced an Integrated Masters Programme wherein work placement is conducted for four months during fourth year and eight months during the final year.
Under the previous structure, final year students could earn up to €22,000 for full-time work while obtaining their qualification. However, under the new system, it was understood that employers were no longer permitted to pay pharmacy students working on placement.
Fee increases for pharmacy students under the new structure have also sparked discontent, with an official campaign launch to protest the new structure anticipated on Thursday morning.
In November, Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) voted to support pharmacy students in relation to unpaid placements and pharmacy fees. TCDSU President Shane De Rís raised the motion following a discussion item brought to SU Council by Pharmacy Convenor Lara Moehle.
In a statement to Trinity News, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice President for Academic Affairs, Oisín Hassan, said: “USI cautiously welcomes today’s statement from the schools of Pharmacy in each of the three schools. The PSI need to provide immediate clarity on their position given that they have previously refused to accept any responsibility for the financial burdens placed on students as a result of the decisions they have made. The IPSA/USI launch and rally is going ahead tomorrow. Students are still absolutely determined to rally. Significant concerns remain despite tonight’s news, and we’ll be making serious noise on issues of pay and fees.”