Completing a part time master’s to further my career

The MSc in Pharmaceutical Technology and Quality Assurance (PTQA) at The University of Manchester is a three year part time course for pharmacy, health and biomedical professionals working in technical services who want to update their skills and knowledge while gaining an academic qualification. Stephen Bishop has recently graduated from the course and below discusses his favourites aspects of the programme, as well as what he found most challenging…

I decided to apply to study PTQA because of its great reputation and to expand my horizons. It had always been on my ‘To Do’ list however a colleague at work who had completed it recently couldn’t rate it high enough and this drove me to apply. 

Before starting the course I already had a solid background in many areas of pharmacy production and quality management, so I wanted to take this to the next level. I hoped to gain an in-depth understanding across these areas and build a good foundation in the parts that I’m not so experienced in.

Alongside the course I’m working as a Senior Pharmacy Technician in the NHS. I work in Quality Assurance and Quality Control supporting preparation of injectable medicines. There is a great deal of cross over between work and the course which is great because it allows me to take things that I learn on the course into my job and vice versa.

My favourite aspects of the degree

The mix of people on the course must be one of the highlights. Technicians, pharmacists, and scientists from all types of backgrounds. The lectures are very informative, but I’ve also learnt a huge amount from my fellow students.  

The teaching is also great, all the lecturers are experts in their field and many still active practitioners. This is evident in how up to date the teaching is and how it reflects the current challenges the industry is facing. Every lecturer I met on the course was approachable and welcomed open discussion around the topics being taught. 

The best thing that I can say about the course though is the difference that it has made to my career. There aren’t enough words to detail how the course has helped me in my current role because I must use something from it daily. I think the biggest help has been the practical application of things that used to scare me a bit, for example Quality Risk Management and Risk Management in general.

The course not only gives the teaching but also the space to apply it in a ‘safe’ space and under guidance. This has given me confidence to use many principles and techniques that before seemed daunting and out of reach. 

The most challenging aspects of the degree 

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a formal education setting so getting back into essay writing and exams was tough at first. Thankfully there is plenty of advice on the university website and all the staff on the course are very supportive and helped me to re-adjust.    

Another challenging obstacle was something out of anyone’s control; the coronavirus pandemic. As I work for the NHS, the course unfortunately had to take a bit of a back seat to begin with and the last two teaching weeks were in fact cancelled. The Programme Directors were very understanding, and the course slides and reading lists were made available online along with additional remote sessions where we could ask questions and engage in discussions. Adjustments were also made to the final assignments but thankfully I still managed to graduate in the summer.

The future

In the short term I’m hoping to use what I have learnt on the course to improve and maintain the NHS services in my current role. In the longer term I’m hoping to gain experience in the production and quality management of both Investigational Medicinal Products and Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products.

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