Call for a Moratorium on New Pharmacy Schools in Australia and Review of Accreditation Standards

Professor Bill Charman

Professor William N. Charman

By Professor William N. Charman

The proliferation of pharmacy schools and courses in Australia is of significant concern. I believe the profile and current number of 18 schools (having increased 3 fold since 1997) is unsustainable. The magnitude of this increase and the number of schools (on a per capita basis) greatly exceeds that in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.

Furthermore, with the concerns voiced within and outside the profession regarding the number of pharmacy graduates entering the Australian workforce and the prevailing lack of clarity, future planning and governance of this matter, surely it is time a moratorium is placed on any new schools.

Whilst highlighting the issue of the number of pharmacy schools and courses within Australia, I believe it is time to reconsider the overall standards, process and quantitative quality assurance requirements associated with accreditation of pharmacy schools. It will be essential to benchmark any such review with appropriate international comparators in pharmacy education, and possibly national educational comparators in allied health professions.

At Monash, we focus on educating and inspiring well-trained, high quality pharmacy graduates to contribute to Australian healthcare in community, hospital and other settings. Using 2004/5 as a baseline, the current number of incoming pharmacy students to the Monash program remains constant. This has been a deliberate strategy to support the very high quality students attracted to our leading education and research program, to provide the best learning environments, and to prepare our students for future leadership roles within the profession. While doing this, we have invested over $50M in new facilities and infrastructure to enable our approximately 50 highly qualified academic staff to provide the best possible education to our students.

Monash made these strategic investments in facilities and staffing as we see a strong and vibrant future for well-trained graduates to lead, positively augment, and enhance current practices and innovation within Australian pharmacy and healthcare. Furthermore, we have always encouraged and supported our graduates to consider employment opportunities outside the traditional fields of community and hospital practice to areas such as the pharma industry, consulting and government service.

In conclusion, I believe there should be an immediate moratorium on any new pharmacy schools in Australia and a reassessment of the current accreditation process and standards. I look forward to positively contributing to a debate regarding these matters to ensure that pharmacy, healthcare and the Australian public will benefit from an effective and well-trained workforce of high quality and inspired pharmacy graduates. It is essential that stakeholders from the community, the various organisations that represent the profession, pharmacy regulatory bodies, students and interns, the education sector and Government come together to urgently address these matters in the public interest.

Professor William N. Charman is Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.