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Updated: April 6, 2010 14:46 IST

Pharma education needs an elixir

Deepa Kurup
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RESILIENT SECTOR: The domestic pharma industry continues to grow at around 12 per cent. Photo: AFP
RESILIENT SECTOR: The domestic pharma industry continues to grow at around 12 per cent. Photo: AFP

In Karnataka, particularly, admissions are conducted shoddily, fee levied is low and awareness of career prospects is poor.

The long and gloomy global economic crisis impacted a plethora of sectors and industry globally, and India was no exception. Students who took admissions in sure-shot courses, where jobs were a given, found themselves staring at no or little job prospects.

Amidst the short list of sectors that managed to survive the economic downturn was one that was hardly noticed by students yet emerged very resilient, and remained at ease through 2008 and 2009: pharmacy. According to market reports, the domestic pharma industry continues to grow at around 12 per cent.

Despite this, academics say that pharmacy education has not picked up in the way it should. In Karnataka, particularly, there is little awareness on the course, the admissions are conducted shoddily and at the fag end of the regular professional admission season, and much needs to be done in terms of increasing awareness about what the sector offers.

This profession, that covers a range of subjects and therefore job options, from chemical industry-based jobs to pharmacological and bio-tech research, is not popular among students in the State, academics lament.

Existing scenario

Pharma education has indeed been neglected by Karnataka, what with only one pharma college being run by the government. Even in private colleges, the students are predominantly from other States, says S. Mohan, Principal and Director of the PES College of Pharmacy. The biggest issue that pharmacy colleges face is the lack of a streamlined admission process.

The situation is so bad that out of the 56 pharmacy colleges in Karnataka, four have decided to stop admissions.

The number of takers for these courses has been on the decline. For instance, in academic sessions that commenced in 2009 and 2008, colleges saw vacancies of 28 and 33 per cent respectively.

Out of 2,576 seats (under the management quota which accounts for 80 per cent of total seats), only 1,725 were filled in 2009. Even the government quota seats (which are rather few in number) were unfilled.

No streamlined admission

In a memorandum submitted to the Department of Medical Education last month, an association of principals of pharmacy colleges in Karnataka requested that pharmacy seats too be allotted through a Common Entrance Test (or by the Karnataka Examinations Authority that is in-charge of examinations). Currently, the admission process is conducted by the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, and the process of calling for applications and admissions is all conducted towards the fag end of the admission season.

Dr. Mohan points out that not only is nothing being done to make students aware of these courses, the non-streamlined admission process too is a deterrent, as most talented students would have opted for other courses by then.

The memorandum seeks to set this right. The letter states that the present admission being made based only on II Pre-University (or equivalent) marks is being delayed so much that by the time it happens all students will have taken admission elsewhere.

It also raises issues with the fee structure, which colleges claim is too little to run a college, given clinical requirements and the need to step up infrastructure.

“The fees to be fixed for Govt. quota candidates should be rationalised. The current fees of Rs. 8,250, out of which only Rs. 4,000 accrues to the institution, is totally unscientific and unrealistic.”

In order to conduct a professional course, with AICTE pay scales to the staff, and considering the infrastructure involved, equipment and consumables used, including chemicals, glassware & stationery, etc., the fees has to be realistic. The expenditure involved per student is more than that for an engineering student, Dr. Mohan says.

Scope

Today, B.Pharm and M.Pharm candidates have opportunities galore after their education. The burgeoning health sector, the growth of corporate heath investment and, most significantly, the huge Indian clinical research outsourcing market, present job opportunities like never before for pharma graduates. Further, India is regarded globally as a pharma R&D hotspot with a large talent pool and linkages to academic research facilities, experts say.

The clinical research field requires many more professionals and salaries are good, academics say. Even education-wise, the pharma sector saw a revamp with the introduction of the six-year Pharm.D. programme last year.

The Pharm.D. professionals will be suitable for employment in this sector, including the opportunities that they have in hospital, clinical and community pharmacies, Dr. Mohan explains.

Courses

The courses on offer in this field are Diploma in Pharmacy (D.Pharm), which is of two-year duration after a pass in 10+2 in science stream; and Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.) which is a four-year course after 10+2 with PCMB (50 per cent aggregate).

Students opting for higher education have the opportunity to specialise in various disciplines at M.Pharm level such as pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical chemistry, and pharmacy practice.

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