Pharmacy World and Science

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 278–283 | Cite as

Science or practice? UK undergraduate experiences and attitudes to the MPharm degree

  • Jill Karen JessonEmail author
  • Chris A. Langley
  • Keith A. Wilson
  • Katie Hatfield
Research Article



The debate surrounding the science/practice balance in the teaching of undergraduate pharmacy has been played out in the professional literature for years. The objective of this work was to explore the attitudes of pharmacy undergraduates on the practice-science debate.


The study was undertaken as part of a national study of teaching, learning and assessment methods in United Kingdom (UK) schools of pharmacy.


Six focus groups were carried out. The sample was 44 volunteer students from nine UK schools of pharmacy, representing all 4 years of the MPharm programme. Groups were tape recorded and transcribed. Analysis of the transcripts was theme based by topic.

Main Outcome Measure

Qualitative data on student attitudes and experiences.


Most students thought that there was too strong an emphasis placed on the science components of the course in the early part of their studies. Later in the course they realised that the majority of the science was necessary; it just had not been apparent to them at the time. There were strongly held attitudes across all 4 years that it would be beneficial to include more practice-related material at the beginning of their studies. This would be beneficial for three reasons: to make the course more interesting, to aid in the contextualisation of the science component and to assist the students in any early placement or vacational work.


Internationally, changes to the role of the pharmacist from a traditional supply function to a more clinical role has resulted in differing educational needs for the pharmacist of the future. Pharmacy will remain a degree built on a strong scientific background, but students advise that the contextualisation and sequencing of material within the degree could make a considerable improvement to their learning. Consulting students helps us to understand the teaching, learning and assessment experience better by giving insights into ways of improving the delivery. In the case of the UK, there are legislative changes impending which may provide an opportunity to review the balance of practice-and science in the curriculum.


Master of pharmacy Pharmacy education Student attitudes Student experiences Student focusgroups Teaching Undergraduate study United Kingdom 


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This study was funded by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust, an independent research charity set up by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Great Britain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Karen Jesson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris A. Langley
    • 2
  • Keith A. Wilson
    • 2
  • Katie Hatfield
    • 2
  1. 1.Aston Business SchoolAston UniversityBirmingham, West MidlandsUK
  2. 2.School of Life and Health SciencesAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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