Studying Pharmacy in the United Kingdom
The UK is a great place to study pharmacy. The UK continues to be world-leading in research, innovation and development of medicines, optimising health care and use of medicines. This knowledge and innovation is concentrated in UK universities, and you will be taught by leading academics.
Pharmacy courses ensure that students learn to be experts on medicines and their use. Pharmacy courses provide students with knowledge and understanding of the chemistry and pharmacology of medicines as well as the biology, pathology and diagnosis of disease. Students learn how medicines are formulated and manufactured to be effective and how medicines are absorbed in the body and eliminated. Students also learn how to communicate effectively with patients so that patients always receive the best possible care and can use their medicines effectively.
Pharmacy education in the UK has transformed since 2012 so that all courses are ‘integrated’. This means that pharmacy students have early contact with patients, all courses have embedded short work placements and ensure students interact with other health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, pharmacy technicians). Integration means that students learn the sciences alongside the patient facing aspects of clinical pharmacy. The teaching styles on UK courses are also modern: as well as lectures and practicals, there is extensive use of workshops, team work and other educational innovations which are all aimed to support all students, including international students, both to succeed in their studies and enjoy their learning. There is a strong emphasis on development of lifelong skills and professionalism during the courses. All MPharm courses provide students with individual learning opportunities, that include carrying out a research project or dissertation, usually in the final year. Students are also encouraged to make good use of their time outside the classroom through volunteering in the community, taking additional work internships and involvement in sports and student societies.
UK pharmacy education prepares students to gain the knowledge and skills to succeed for all the potential career destinations for pharmacists whether in community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, industry, research or postgraduate study.
The UK pharmacy degree is called the MPharm, which is 4 years of University study. There is no UK equivalent of BPharm: in the UK the 4 years of study qualifies students with a Masters degree (MPharm), without graduating with a Batchelors degree first. There are currently 31 UK Universities which offer the MPharm (https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/education/pharmacist/accredited-mpharm-degrees). Each MPharm is quality assured by its own University and also the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the independent regulator of the profession of pharmacy in the UK. The GPhC accreditation provides assurance that every graduate of every UK MPharm degree meets educational standards. For these reasons the quality of UK MPharm degrees and graduates is recognised globally.
Around 3000 students enrol on pharmacy degrees every year in the UK, with about 15% international students. The UK is a multicultural, diverse and open society that is welcoming to international students. Studying in the UK will give you the opportunity to experience its rich culture.
Each university sets its own international fees, and the requirements for entry differ between Universities, so the main advice is to look at the universities websites and don’t be shy! Prospective applicants should contact the admission teams at the schools of pharmacy they are interested in and will find people who are happy to help explain the admission and visa application requirements and processes. Schools of pharmacy usually interview overseas applicants, often by skype. Because of the integrated nature of the MPharm, questions at interview are not just on chemistry and biology and calculations, but are likely to include questions about your work experience relating to pharmacy and an evaluation of your attitudes and personal values aligned with the UK National Health Service core values that apply to UK pharmacists: Working together for patients, Respect and dignity, Commitment to quality of care, Compassion, Improving lives, Everyone counts.
In order to be registered as a pharmacist in the UK and to be allowed to practice, home students must obtain a Masters of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree and also undertake 52 weeks supervised pre-registration training in clinical practice, before taking a national registration exam set by the GPhC. Overseas students would usually return home after their 4 year degree, in which case they will not registered in the UK. Working as a pharmacist in your home country is governed by your national regulator, not the UK GPhC. Each home country determines which additional requirements, if any, are required for graduates with UK MPharm to be able to practice in their home country.
Overseas students graduating from a 4 year MPharm course can also apply for pre-registration placements in the UK and become UK registered pharmacists using exactly the same scheme as home students, subject to visa rules and the number of places available. Overseas applicants need to be aware that while UK schools of pharmacy will support overseas students in their pre-registration applications none can provide a guarantee of a pre-registration placement, as the selection process for preregistration places is competitive.
There are UK courses for overseas students where the 52 week pre-registration placement is embedded into the degree. For these 5 year courses, students at the end of 5 years qualify both with the MPharm degree and as a UK-recognised pharmacist. Unlike the 4 year degrees, the university has a key role in providing the pre-registration placement. There are currently five Universities that have 5 year courses with integrated or intercalated registration training accepting international applications: Keele University, University of Birmingham, University of Bradford, University of East Anglia, University of Nottingham.
On behalf of the Pharmacy Schools Council
Professor Marcus Rattray, Deputy Chair of Pharmacy Schools Council.
Head of School, University of Bradford School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences