The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Irish Pharmaceutical Students Association (IPSA) today launched their report entitled “Pharmacy Students’ Campaign Report: The Financial Burden of the new MPharm Programme on Students”. The group also marched to the gates of the Dáíl at 10am. Following the rally they will hand in a petition of 5,868 signatures supporting their case to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) on Fenian St.
The report has received widespread support across the country, with pharmacy professionals, TDs, and the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) all voicing their concerns with unpaid placements and fees.
It is understood that in 2015 the PSI and the Affiliation for Pharmacy Practice Experiential Learning (APPEL) banned the payment of students for their work placements. It is believed that the reasoning behind this was to prioritise a student-tutor relationship, rather than one of employee-employer. This is a divergence from previous years, where students could earn up to €22,000 for undertaken full time work.
This is the first year that the rules have been in effect, and it has since been heavily criticised in Trinity. A USI survey has shown that 81% of students across University College Cork (UCC), Trinity, and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have had to work part time because of this rule. Alongside this, Trinity students have also seen their tuition fees increase from €3,000 to €8,500 in their final year of study.
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.”
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) School of Pharmacy Convenor Laura Moehle also noted that “the launch was planned in advance of us receiving an email stating that future placements may be unpaid or paid. A lot of hard work and time has been put into this launch and it is an opportunity for pharmacy students from all three schools to unite together”. She was optimistic about the situation and said that “For the launch we really want to drive home our point and hopefully receive a statement from the PSI regarding their stance on the situation”.
The PSI have since made a statement to pharmacy students, arguing that they did not ban placement providers, but gave them the choice “either [to] be paid or unpaid”. This followed a meeting on January 7 with representatives from Trinity, RCSI, and UCC.