Thirty-two fresh pharmacy graduates from a university in the Klang Valley cannot get a job in their field or continue working as pharmacists as the four-year course that they underwent, has not received full accreditation from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

The new course at the university only has partial accreditation, therefore graduates could not obtain the needed provisional registered pharmacist (PRP) licence to apply for a pharmacist job or if they have already started working, the licence has been revoked, according to a graduate of the batch.

Many have been worried that they are unable to support themselves, besides being saddled with their National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) debt.

Many graduates have loans to pay off

A 26-year-old graduate, who wished to remain anonymous, said he started working with a pharmaceutical manufacturer early this year but in mid-March was informed that he could not practise as a pharmacist by the Pharmacy Board until his university received full accreditation for the pharmacy course.

"I was shocked because the board had earlier approved my PRP and even accepted that I was going to work as a houseman in a private company. Without a job, how am I to pay back my RM98,000 PTPTN loan?" he asked.

Another graduate said she has been jobless as her job offer has been put on hold due to the issue. "To join the private sector, I have to send a Letter of Liberalisation to the Pharmacy Board, which I was not able to because the course has not received full accreditation," she said.

She has two PTPTN loans to pay - a RM72,000 loan for her diploma and RM98,000 for her degree course - and has also been unable to attend the Public Service Commission job interview due to the problem.

Full accreditation not given due to late submission of documents

In response, the university said apart from the pre-course visit, it completed monitoring visits by regulatory bodies on 17 and 18 March 2015 and 6 and 8 February this year. The full accreditation audit visit has been scheduled for 28 April.

"We are on track to achieve full accreditation for the Pharmacy programme," the vice-chancellor's office said.

However, the university has missed one monitoring visit and failed to submit documents for full accreditation for the course for final audit in time for the first batch of students' graduation.

MQA usually takes at least seven months to process an application for full accreditation of a course after a university submitted the documents in full. MQA said that is has only just received the documents for full accreditation from the university earlier this month despite the students' final examination was in October. MQA CEO Datuk Professor Dr Rujhan Mustafa said that the university will have to call the graduates back for assessment.

Ideally the university should have sent in the documents seven months before students' final examination.

Pharmacy Board advises students to check if courses have been accredited

According to the Pharmacy Board, a university has to undergo five audits, including once before the course is allowed to start, for a course to be accredited. The board has also said that full accreditation is compulsory, otherwise, graduates are unable to practise in Malaysia.

A pharmacy graduate can apply for a job as a houseman in the public or private sector after getting the PRP licence, which is valid for one year for housemanship, with a maximum contract offered for two years. For compulsory service after housemanship, the PRP licence is valid for one year with a maximum contract offered for another year.

"We advise students to check the First Schedule of the Malaysian Registration of Pharmacists Act 1951 and regulations to see whether the course they are planning to take is recognised by the board," it said. MIMS

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