MPharm Pharmacy with a Foundation Year

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Foundations of Pharmacy

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHAR11001
Credit rating 60
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit is split into two 6-week blocks. Block 1 (Foundations of pharmacy 1) includes an induction to learning in higher education and the enquiry-based learning (EBL) approach used on the MPharm before focussing on building upon students’ knowledge and understanding of chemistry as applied to the actions of effective medicines. Block 2 (Foundations of pharmacy 2) switches the focus to more complex biological molecules that make up cells, organs and organisms. Across both blocks, students’ understanding of the professional practice of pharmacy is introduced and developed.

Conceptual understanding is developed through a series of “core concepts” lectures which provide learning in the threshold concepts mapped to year 1 of the programme. Core knowledge is then built using a flipped classroom approach, supported by EBL workshops in which learning is consolidated and independent learning skills developed. This learning is supplemented by a series of laboratory practicals, professional skills workshops and placements in which learning from EBL and lectures is applied to introductory-level scenarios to develop practical, communication, leadership, decision-making and prescribing skills.


The unit aims to:

Help students adjust to studying in higher education and introduce them to all the key subject areas as well as the practical and professional skills important in becoming a pharmacist.

The unit initially uses students’ prior experience of chemistry to develop their knowledge and understanding of molecules important for the action of effective medicines, before considering larger biological molecules and cells. This learning is supplemented by laboratory classes to develop analytical skills and students begin to learn about the legal, ethical and professional aspects of practising pharmacy. Students will also be challenged to learn more about themselves and the communities they live and study in, and begin to develop their research skills whilst participating in workshops and placements to develop confidence in communication and decision-making.

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching and learning philosophy for the MPharm places an emphasis on learner-centred rather than teacher-centred approaches. Learning is therefore structured to maximise guided self-directed learning, with enquiry driven project work and EBL workshops provided to support greater conceptual understanding of the material and deep, rather than superficial learning. This helps students prepare for their future careers by helping them to develop independence, confidence and resilience. A wide range of teaching and learning activity is included to meet the learning needs of a diverse range of students:

Core concepts lectures: A very small number of didactic lectures are included to provide a step-by-step guide to the threshold concepts in pharmacy

Online learning: All guided self-directed learning in year 1 is provided via the VLE Blackboard. This consists of videos, bespoke elearning packages, NHS elearning (e.g. Skills for health), factsheets and directed reading (which can be downloaded).

EBL workshops: All learning is brought together and consolidated in a series of multidisciplinary integrated sessions. Workshops are led by a team of staff who act as specialist facilitators, directing student learning via discussion of case studies and project work.

Practical classes: A series of practical classes spans the first three years of the MPharm. In year 1, students focus on becoming competent in using equipment to master a number of basic skills before learning about experimental design. Practical classes are mapped to core concepts lectures and EBL workshops to ensure learning is applied to practice as a pharmacist.

Professional skills classes: These span the full 4 years of the MPharm to ensure students are prepared to become prescribers after their foundation year. Classes focus on developing consultation skills, assessment and examination skills and clinical decision-making. Regular role play and interaction with medical actors is used to develop confidence and to ensure students receive tailored feedback.

MyDispense: This is an online platform utilising real-world cases to recreate prescription processing and to apply pharmacy law. It is used with increasing complexity in all four years of the MPharm course to develop skills in clinical checking, dispensing and accuracy checking.

Placements: Compulsory workplace placements are provided in both hospital and community pharmacy settings in year 1, to introduce students to the pharmacy and multidisciplinary team and to the range of pharmacy services provided.

Academic adviser meetings: Students meet with their named academic adviser twice per semester in formal timetabled meetings. Academic advisers support students with their personal and professional development throughout the MPharm course.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of functional groups, bonding, electronics, nomenclature and depiction.
  • Describe the relationship between the chemical structure and the properties of ‘molecules for life’, for example DNA, proteins, lipids, sugars (including polysaccharides) and/or vitamins/cofactors.
  • Using relevant highly prescribed or top 100 drugs, describe the chemical properties of a drug, which may include its bonding, shape, functional groups, stereochemistry, ionisation (pKa) and lipophilicity (LogP/D).
  • Using relevant examples encountered in this unit, demonstrate how the drug interacts with its biological target(s).
  • Describe the main routes of administration and dosage types of medicines, understanding the difference between local and systemic administration.
  • Identify how immediate and modified release dosage forms differ.
  • Discuss the core principles of LADME (liberation, absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion), bioavailability, Cmax, tmax, t1/2, volume and clearance and protein binding as they apply to medicines administration.
  • Identify and describe in basic terms, a variety of solid, liquid and semi-solid formulation, steriles and nano/micro formulations
  • Discuss the concepts of pKa, pH, ionisation and permeability
  • Describe the key features of biological molecules – proteins, lipids, water, oligonucleotides 
  • Describe the structure and organisation of DNA / RNA / proteins in order to discuss genome organisation and gene expression.
  • Describe the structure of a cell and demonstrate an understanding of cell signalling, biological targets, protein synthesis and selective toxicity.
  • Describe the differences in structure and gene organisation between prokaryotes, eukaryotes, viruses and prions.
  • Describe how drugs interact with biological drug targets i.e. enzyme transporters and receptors.
  • Demonstrate a basic awareness of the biology of cancer and genomics
  • Describe protein targeting in bacteria and eukaryotes and demonstrate an awareness of how antivirals work.
  • Describe a range of influences on health and illness and the effects illness can have on individuals, including the social and economic context of health.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the theory of choice, decision making models, and heuristics applied to the practice of pharmacy.
  • Discuss the range of medicines (prescription, non-prescription and complementary and alternative medicines) available to the public and give an overview of their place in the treatment of minor ailments and major disease.
  • Discuss the role of the pharmacy team in a range of settings and the concept of fitness to practise.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of leadership within the context of pharmacy and interprofessional healthcare practice, including the roles and responsibilities of different health care disciplines and equality and diversity in teams.
  • Describe the basic prescription checking and dispensing process.
  • Process prescriptions at the level of “simple patient, simple drug” i.e. single item with or without simple errors for a single disease state (e.g. missing info on Rx, under and over doses).
  • Discuss the use and  importance of PMRs and electronic health records.
  • Discuss why research is important in the field of pharmacy.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of experimental research design and clinical trials.

Intellectual skills

  • Show competence in using basic statistics to interpret data (mean, STDEV).
  • Extrapolate data from graphs accurately.
  • Identify where to source evidence from and demonstrate an understanding of how reliable different sources are.
  • Describe levels of measurement, distribution, measures of central tendency and apply these to relevant examples.
  • Explain probability, p values and the null hypothesis.
  • Name appropriate statistical tests for comparing groups using continuous levels of measurement.
  • Identify and paraphrase the basic structure and content of a research article.

Practical skills

  • Demonstrate accuracy and confidence in solid and liquid handling.
  • Accurately construct a colorimetric dilution series and link this to absorption.
  • Demonstrate competence in light microscopy.
  • Demonstrate effective staining techniques to initiate bacterial identification.
  • Demonstrate effective experimental planning and recording data to accurate time points.
  • Effectively observe and record an enzyme catalysed reaction, draw a progression curve and calculate the initial rate.
  • Demonstrate an ability to reliably work in a safe way in a laboratory setting, always deploying appropriate PPE.
  • Demonstrate and ability to accurately describe all hazards and appropriate mitigation as well as responses to accidents and incidents.
  • Demonstrate basic confidence and resilience in consultation skills (face-to-face) using a person-centred approach and listening to the voice of another person.
  • Build rapport with patient as part of the prescription dispensing process (take in prescription from patient and hand-out with simple advice, ascertain key pieces of information from patient).
  • Follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) and demonstrate an awareness of  what is a  risk  in the pharmacy environment.
  • Demonstrate how to complete a simple search strategy to identify sources of research evidence.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Identify and discuss own strengths and development needs.
  • Discuss the professional standards that are expected of a pharmacy professional (and adhere to these standards).
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate with peers and staff in a professional manner (verbally and electronically via email / VLE).
  • Discuss strategies to cope with stress and use a growth mindset when dealing with adversity.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work as part of a team and show awareness of methods that can be used to resolve conflict should it arise.

Assessment methods


  • EBL case-based class work.
  • Eportfolio – practical and professional skills, placements and personal development. (supervised learning events).
  • Mock integrated case-based exam.
  • Pharmacy progress MCQ test.


  • Pass/Fail components do not attract a grade, but are worth 12 credits in total over the course of the year. Students may take the full academic year to collect sufficient eportfolio evidence to pass.
  • Calculations exam (1 credit).
  • Professional skills (Prescription Process, Prescribing, Consultation) eportfolio (3 credits).
  • Personal development eportfolio (2 credits).
  • Integrated case-based examination (36 credits).
  • Individual coursework  - integrated case-based assignment (9 credits).
  • Group coursework – oral presentation and defence of EBL project (9 credits).

Feedback methods


  • EBL case-based classwork - Feedback provided within EBL class.
  • Eportfolio - Feedback provided within practical and professional skills classes, on placement and by academic adviser.
  • Mock integrated case-based exam - Self-marked using mark scheme. Drop-in session for Q&A.
  • MCQ test - Feedback on performance after February exam board.


  • Calculations - Drop-in session for all students to review their paper. Additional support for those who have failed.
  • Professional Skills - Feedback provided within professional skills classes.
  • Personal Development Feedback provided by academic adviser.
  • Integrated case base-based exam - EBL session devoted to self and peer evaluation of exam performance.
  • Individual Coursework - Written feedback provided within 15 days.
  • Group Coursework - Written feedback provided within 15 days.

Recommended reading

The MPharm uses an EBL approach to teaching and learning. As such, learners are required to engage with a number of self-directed learning activities including reading. In year 1, reading material is provided for students by staff but they are encouraged to search for their own additional resources to supplement learning. Directed reading consists of up to 8 hours per week from pharmacy journals, ebooks, clinical resources (e.g. BNF, Stockleys Drug Interactions) and NHS elearning (e.g. CPPE, eLfH, Skills for Health). As clinical practice is constantly changing, this material will be reviewed each academic year, and then again before each session is delivered, to ensure it remains relevant.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 40
Practical classes & workshops 112

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Tavares Unit coordinator

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