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Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

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  • Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to make this post as I wanted to shame my findings at the utter mess the level 3 (a-level equivalent) system is in for those who want to go onto high-points degrees like Pharmacy: It concerns Students like myself who unfortunately missed the traditional 16-18 a-level years and what obstacles are put in our way to get the UCAS points we need for Pharmacy. The main option open to 19+ prospective degree students without existing a-levels is to take an "Access" course which at level 3 is supposed to function as an a-level alternative to get onto a HE degree:

    The trouble with Access is that the number of credits attained cannot be converted to UCAS points. The Access course is also worth the equivalent of about two A-levels as opposed to 3. The number of units required to complete the certificate mean you get a rather generalized science education thats not quite as in depth as a single A-level in Chemistry for example.

    Thats not to say Access graduates cannot become good Pharmacy students; merely additional assessment and information is needed when deciding as to whether to offer a place. The Universities are divided as to how to treat Access with regards to the high ucas-points entry degrees such as Pharmacy:

    As I wrote in a previous post: Pharmacy schools such as Wolves and Aston simply give a flat no to Access quals even if one were to take an additional A-level in Chemistry alongside to increase the subject knowledge depth. They quite simply don't want to know. Whereas Keele would accept a full access on it's own providing a good number of level 3 credits were scored and the applicant passed an entry examination.

    Access courses, while useful to the 19+ students who for whatever reason didn't take A-levels conventionally at 16: Are still too subject-generalized by nature for most Pharmacy, veterinary, dentistry and medical schools to want to look at. The providers don't do themselves any favors by providing student guidance which is unable to help with applying for anything except the generic 120-180 points B/Sc or BA etc.

    My course leaders couldn't grasp that there was a undergraduate degree needing an average of 360 points to gain entry to. Or that there is no separate B.Pharm component to the Pharmacy degree. After several attempts to explain the concept; they looked at a prospectus and said why not do B/Sc Pharmacology and then do a masters year? I tried to explain that Pharmacology is a different but linked subject to pure Pharmacy and the Universities had told me it was near impossible to convert.

    I then got a lecture on how "I MUST be wrong." because Access "IS AS GOOD as having A-levels." They then said something on the lines of: that I MUST be mixed up as "All pharmacists do is run a shop and read prescriptions and give out the right pills." They then said that pharmacists probably were people "not good enough to become doctors."

    From that point on I didn't bother getting further advice off them to help with the application as it was clear they were too narrow-minded to help anyone with "unusual" choices. Unfortunately this problem with the Access course and it's student support seems rather endemic across the midlands network at least. Meaning students like myself would likely end up doing a foundation degree to make the points up and sort the mess; and it's not easy to locate a suitable pure Chemistry foundation degree either.

    Prior to 2006 "mature" students like myself could simply avoid this problem by taking normal Biology, Chemistry and another suitable accompanying A-level at the local "polytechnic" college where classes would be open to students over 19. Unfortunately the recent trend is to port traditional A-levels over to sixth-form colleges to make room for the "new and trendy" vocational subject mixed courses at the tech colleges like forensic science and "Science and psychology." etc. The problem is these courses don't make for good choices to get into medical science subjects Pharmacy. They just don't contain enough pure-chemistry.

    Almost all sixth-form colleges won't allow Students over 18 in their admissions policy due to recent funding changes. Not to mention the fact most mature students would not be comfortable in a semi-school like environment with a majority of fellow students being fresh post-16.

    So it looks like the only option for me to get into Pharmacy is to get the Access certificate and then spend another two years doing HND "sciences" at the University of Derby. This is the only centre to offer a HND in the "sciences" throughout east and west Midlands and Wales. A HND in pure Chemistry is no longer available in these regions.

    All this to get into Pharmacy as the A-level route is no longer open to me... Perhaps if Access wasn't so sub-standard it wouldnt be an issue of wasting two years going all the way to Buxton from Shrewsbury just to get the points I need.

    I would welcome peoples comments on this; presumably I'm not the only one who is or has been in this situation.

    Thanks,

    mr_colt.

  • #2
    Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

    Just had a quick look on Ucas and De Montford say that they welcome applications from those on Access Courses? Might not be near you though- or they might be lying!

    katy

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    • #3
      Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

      Originally posted by katyvrogers View Post
      Just had a quick look on Ucas and De Montford say that they welcome applications from those on Access Courses? Might not be near you though- or they might be lying!

      katy
      Unfortunately the bit about accepting Access is part of the generic blurb they put on every course page. DMU won't take students onto Pharmacy with Access alone. That was their position on the matter when I inquired in December. Presumably they would accept an Access student if they did a "suitable" foundation degree first. Finding one "suitable" seems to be harder than it looks!

      mr_colt.

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      • #4
        Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

        Have you tried the University of Huddersfield?
        They have fairly recently got RPSGB approval for an MPharm course, I beleive they are accepting their first intake of students in Sept 08.
        They might be worth a try

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        • #5
          Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

          It's a shame someone with your intelligence and enthusism is facing these setbacks.

          But, I may be missing something here, why don't you do A-levels by distance learning?

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          • #6
            Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

            Originally posted by N.T View Post
            It's a shame someone with your intelligence and enthusism is facing these setbacks.

            But, I may be missing something here, why don't you do A-levels by distance learning?
            Unfortunately there are some problems with doing suitable A-levels via distance/correspondence learning:

            Firstly; the cost is enormous; no grants or Government help is avaliable as you are either expected to be young enough to do A-levels at a college/school etc or old enough to enter onto an Access course. The fact your chosen career path has sporadic acceptance for Access qualifications is not taken into consideration.

            Apart from the course fees from the learning provider; you have to take into account the enormous cost of booking a private place at a suitable local exam centre as well as the entry fees. A single GCSE can cost over £100 to take privately; more if you need exam concessions that involve extra time as an invigilator has to be paid for.

            Secondly; you have to find a centre that offers the exact same exam-board and syllabus for the qualification as you are taking from the distance provider. You then have to ascertain as to whether they are willing to go through the hassle of taking on a private candidate. In the entire county of Staffordshire; 9 centres were offering the right board and specification when I inquired (This is for a GCSE in Maths.)

            Only one was willing to take on a private candidate however; they would only do this if I did not apply for exam concessions and sat the exam with everyone else. I have partial Dyspraxia which means I cannot write very fast and keep it legible, extensive amounts of writing tires me out and severely impairs my mental ability and jepordises my exam mark. Therefore in exams I have either: Extra time, separate room and scribe or do the exam on a word processor. As you can probably ascertain; my typing ability is not impaired whatsoever.

            Finally; As Chemistry and Biology (to a slightly lesser extent) are essential for getting a place in Pharmacy: You would needs access to your own Science lab in order to perform the mandatory practicals. You are not allowed to use simulation software such as Crocodile Chemistry to perform these. Evidence that you have actually performed the experiments must be produced. I am yet to find a college that would permit lab hire to an individual Student given the supervision requirement for health and safety liability. I expect if somewhere did then the hourly cost would be astronomical.

            So distance learning is out of the window for the Sciences really; I should add to this post that "Pharm-assist" has told me De Montford do in fact accept Access provisionally depending on the outcome of an interview and assessment test. Perhaps the information I received from the DMU enquiry centre last year was wrong? I am yet to determine how far leaned towards Chemistry the Access qualification from a particular college must be for De Montford to accept it. Course content and depth in the different modules does vary between colleges.

            Whew! sorry for the very long and complex post but inevitably this is a complex subject.

            mr_colt

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            • #7
              Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

              Mrcolt;

              Very sorry to read of your problems. I'm not in a position to comment; really don't know about uni entry requirements, but there's a side issue which concerns me, and that's the appalling advice you were given re the acceptablity of Access and the requirments for pharmacy. If you pm me with the name of the course provider, I'll take it up with the RPSGB Education department.

              If we do it that way, then your name can be kept out out of it!

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              • #8
                Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

                Originally posted by the old merlin View Post
                Mrcolt;

                Very sorry to read of your problems. I'm not in a position to comment; really don't know about uni entry requirements, but there's a side issue which concerns me, and that's the appalling advice you were given re the acceptablity of Access and the requirments for pharmacy. If you pm me with the name of the course provider, I'll take it up with the RPSGB Education department.

                If we do it that way, then your name can be kept out out of it!
                I'd rather you didn't; I was the only prospective Pharmacy student they had ever had on the course. Besides; I wouldn't consider their opinions representative of the course provider in any way,

                mr_colt.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

                  My husband enquired about requirements to get into pharmacy a few years ago - admittedly only at Sunderland University as he needed to stay local for my work.

                  The admissions tutor recommended the Access course at the local college and said they took 2-3 mature students via that route each year.
                  The college were less helpful and finding information about the actual "Access" course can be a bit of a minefield - in our area it is overseen by Northumbria University but it is various local schools and colleges that actually run the courses.

                  He was advised by the admissions tutor (at Sunderland Uni) that he would need 3 HEFC subjects all at distinction level and all science based (this is collectively known as a science Access course) and would need to include the chemistry HEFC course. Ended up doing Chemistry, Biology and Quantitative Methods HEFCs at the local college - had to attend 3 days per week for 1 year and because attending >16hours it was funded via local authority.

                  Prior to submitting UCAS form also undertook some pharmacy work experience so could add that to personal statement of form. Offered place based on gaining distinction level in all 3 subjects.

                  He passed all with distinction and is currently in his third year at Uni - does acknowledge that course is not the equivalent of A-levels and he needed to do more background work than some but fortunately the maturity of not being 18 helped him there!

                  All I can suggest is that if your "Access" course is the same and is in reality 3 HEFCs (Higher Education Foundation Certificates) you try asking about admission requirements in terms of HEFCs as from experience of discussing the phrase Access in some places it is interchangeable with foundation years etc and that's where confusion arises.
                  Titch

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                  • #10
                    Re: Getting the points: Hard if you didn't do a-level @ 16

                    Originally posted by Titch View Post
                    My husband enquired about requirements to get into pharmacy a few years ago - admittedly only at Sunderland University as he needed to stay local for my work.

                    The admissions tutor recommended the Access course at the local college and said they took 2-3 mature students via that route each year.
                    The college were less helpful and finding information about the actual "Access" course can be a bit of a minefield - in our area it is overseen by Northumbria University but it is various local schools and colleges that actually run the courses.

                    He was advised by the admissions tutor (at Sunderland Uni) that he would need 3 HEFC subjects all at distinction level and all science based (this is collectively known as a science Access course) and would need to include the chemistry HEFC course. Ended up doing Chemistry, Biology and Quantitative Methods HEFCs at the local college - had to attend 3 days per week for 1 year and because attending >16hours it was funded via local authority.

                    Prior to submitting UCAS form also undertook some pharmacy work experience so could add that to personal statement of form. Offered place based on gaining distinction level in all 3 subjects.

                    He passed all with distinction and is currently in his third year at Uni - does acknowledge that course is not the equivalent of A-levels and he needed to do more background work than some but fortunately the maturity of not being 18 helped him there!

                    All I can suggest is that if your "Access" course is the same and is in reality 3 HEFCs (Higher Education Foundation Certificates) you try asking about admission requirements in terms of HEFCs as from experience of discussing the phrase Access in some places it is interchangeable with foundation years etc and that's where confusion arises.
                    Yes; trying to find out from the West Midlands Access provider's as to how science-centric their modules really are is quite a slow process. TCAT or New College (Telford) look like good options and, they have good relationships with Keele. However it would be a a 40 mile round trip each day; Shrewsbury say their course is quite Biology centric. The next task for me is to find out if they want the Maths qualification at level 2 or 3.

                    More emailing for me to do...

                    mr_colt

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