Students on the University of Kent’s MPharm course can opt to take part in a choice of group projects right across the spectrum of pharmacy – an approach that course leaders moved to in 2018. Previously students had mostly done individual research.
Course leader Sarah Corlett explains:
‘In the past we put all this energy into getting these projects up and running, and then we had very little data and got very little meaningful findings from the effort that we put in. Students would mainly be working on individual projects, we had multiple submissions to IRAS and in the first year that we went through this process we absolutely flooded the ethics committee with our students’ projects. It was unsatisfactory for the ethics committee, but also for the local practitioners as well, so it was untenable, and we had to change.’
Now students join an existing project which the university runs every year in order to complete a period of research training and collect and analyse original data to get accreditation for the course. Typically, 30 to 35 students will choose to do a ‘project in practice’. The students work on group projects, so the academic takes the lead for designing those projects and controls the study design. The students are asked to think about it and to contribute the project protocol.
The academic member of staff then considers what review the project requires, including considering how to avoid impact on NHS organisations. For example, a student project where students have been looking at written medicine information needs and interviewing people taking regular medicines about their experience of patient information leaflets – went through the university ethics committee as it was recruiting members of the general public.
Sarah continues: ‘Students collect and analyse their own data. We will organise the project, so they have individual pockets of data each. But the supervisor will coordinate that and will bring all the data together at the end of the project, so that then we can we have enough data to have meaningful conclusions and to submit something for publication. So, the actual experience is much better for everybody. It's better for the ethics committee, it's better for the individual students and it's better for our partners within the NHS.’