Introduction-The pace of structural change in the UK health economies, the new focus on regulation and the breaking down of professional boundaries means that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has to continually review the scope, range and outputs of education provided by schools of pharmacy (SOPs). In SOPs, the focus is on equipping students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to successfully engage with the pre-registration year.
The aim of this study  was to map current programmes and undergraduate experiences to inform the RPSGB debate. The specific objectives of this paper are to describe elements of the survey of final year undergraduates, to explore student opinions and experiences of their workload, teaching, learning and assessment.
Material and methods-The three main research techniques were: (1) quantitative course document review, (2) qualitative staff interview and (3) quantitative student self completion survey. The questions in the survey were based on findings from exploratory focus group work with BPSA (British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association) members and were designed to ascertain if views expressed in the focus groups on the volume and format of assessments were held by the general student cohort.
The student self completion questionnaire consisting of 31 questions, was administered in 2005 to all (n=1847) final year undergraduates, using a pragmatic mixture of methods. The sample was 15 SOPs within the UK (1 SOP opted out). The total response rate was 50.62% (n=935): it varied by SOP from 14.42% to 84.62%. The survey data were analysed (n=741) using SPSS, excluding non-UK students who may have undertaken part of their studies within a non-UK university.
Results and discussion
• 76% (n=562) respondents considered that the amount of formal assessment was about right, 21% (n=158) thought it was too much.
• There was agreement that the MPharm seems to have more assessment than other courses, with 63% (n=463) strongly agreeing or agreeing.
• The majority considered the balance between examinations and coursework was about right (67%, n=498), with 27% (n=198) agreeing that the balance was too far weighted towards examinations.
• 57% (n=421) agreed that the focus of MPharm assessment was too much towards memorised knowledge, 40% (n=290) that it was about right.
• 78% (n= 575) agreed with the statement “Assessments don’t measure the skills for being a pharmacist they just measure your knowledge base”. Only 10% (n=77) disagreed.
• Similarly 49% (n=358) disagreed with, and 35% (n=256) were not sure about the statement “I consider that the assessments used in the MPharm course adequately measure the skills necessary to be a pharmacist”. Only 17% (n=124) agreed.
Experience from this study shows the difficulty of administering survey instruments through UK Schools of Pharmacy. It is heavily dependent on timing, goodwill and finding the right person. The variability of the response rate between SOPs precluded any detailed analysis by School.
Nevertheless, there are some interesting results. Issues raised in the exploratory focus group work about amount of assessment and over reliance on knowledge have been confirmed. There is a real debate to be had about the extent to which the undergraduate course, which must instil scientific knowledge, can provide students with the requisite qualities, skills, attitudes and behaviour that are more easily acquired in the pre-registration year.
 Wilson K, Jesson J, Langley C, Clarke L, Hatfield K. MPharm Programmes: Where are we now? Report commissioned by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust., 2005.