Mumbai: Even as pharmacy colleges continue to mushroom across Maharashtra, for the first time, almost one-third of Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) seats across the state have remained vacant.
Data from the state Common Entrance Test (CET) Cell and the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) shows that even as the state-wide enrollment to the undergraduate pharmacy programme has settled around 28,000 in the last three admission cycles, the intake capacity for the course kept rising to over 42,000 due to the proliferation of new institutes. The large-scale vacancies have the educators and industrialists worried that the pharmacy colleges may meet the fate of engineering institutes, which too ran out of favour after an initial boom.
The growth in the healthcare sector in the country in the past decade has had a direct impact on pharma education, with the BPharm enrollment in the state shooting up from 11,305 in 2016-17 to 27,583 in 2021-22, and then growing marginally to 28,219 in 2022-23 and 28,439 this year. The tally of colleges also surged in tandem from 168 to 453, with more than 50 new institutes approved this year alone by the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), the apex statutory body of the discipline. The intake capacity for BPharm also multiplied from 11,588 to 42,794, far exceeding the number of students.
According to Pramod Yeole, Vice Chancellor of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, the vacancies could be a result of the delay in granting permission to new institutes. "The situation will improve next year," he said.
Paraag Gide, Principal, Dr LH Hiranandani College of Pharmacy, Ulhasnagar, said that many of the educational trusts and societies responded to the heightened demand for Pharmacy by starting new institutes, which ultimately resulted in a supply-demand mismatch.
“The educational organisations rely on the previous data, which shows that the number of Pharmacy applicants was higher than the available seats. However, with many people thinking along these lines together led to the setting up of so many institutes,” he added.
Noting the unabated growth in pharmacy institutes and graduates, PCI, in July 2019, had put a moratorium on starting new colleges offering diploma and degree programmes. However, the decision was set aside by the Delhi High Court in March 2022, in response to multiple petitions by educational bodies. The verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
The experts claim that the proliferation of colleges will affect the standards of pharmacy education. “Many of the new institutions have come up in rural areas with a complete lack of infrastructure and teaching staff. If the intake is disproportionate then surely there will be a quality decline and will ultimately hamper recruitment. There is definitely a possibility that we might end up as engineering,” said Shariq Syed, Dean, School of Pharmacy, Anjuman-I-Islam’s Kalsekar Technical Campus, Navi Mumbai.
Jagannath Shinde, President of Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association, and a PCI member, said that unless there’s a check on the number of pharmacy graduates, it will result in steep unemployment. “Many of the pharmaceutical companies are hiring BSc and MSc students, even for manufacturing. The option to work abroad is also out of reach for many students, as they need to do a Master of Science (MS) after studying pharmacy at home. The government needs to put in place norms for permitting new institutes,” he said.