These students recognised the need for a national pharmacy student’s association, and it was initially called “the pharmacy faculty of the National Union of Students”. The first year of this faculty held their first Conference in 1943 at the School of Pharmacy in Brunswick Square. At this Conference, it was decided that the faculty should be renamed to the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association and John Shinner, the President of the Student’s Union of the College of the Pharmaceutical Society, was elected as the first BPSA President. It is interesting to note that the first meetings of the BPSA were held beneath the Square while the Secretary and Registrar of the Society, F.W Adams, was on air raid duty!
The BPSA was active in pharmacy politics and education from the beginning, with letters from the President campaigning for better and fairer training for students appearing in the Journal from 1943 and a focus for the second Conference, in Nottingham, covering educational reforms and teaching methods. The Pharmaceutical Society recognised the BPSA as early as 1945, publishing the quote “the interest displayed by the students in their education is a healthy indication of the lines on which future education policy of the Society should proceed”.
In 1949, the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF) was formed at the 1949 BPSA Annual Conference. The BPSA had built contact with national pharmacy student bodies in 19 different countries. International guest delegates met at the Conference and agreed to set up an international pharmacy student body – the IPSF was born!
In 1951, the BPSA had 1500 delegates, Future Pharmacist was published each term and an international newsletter maintained contact with 34 student bodies around the world – there was even an Australian presence at the 1951 BPSA Annual Conference! In 1952, Miss Rhona Houston became the first female president of the BPSA.
After a rocky start to the 1960s (during the Annual Conference in 1960, delegates had to argue for the necessity of the BPSA amid claims it should be disbanded), the BPSA went from strength to strength. The President of the British Medical Student’s Association attended part of the 1962 conference in Cardiff, showing that even then, the BPSA was keen to develop multidisciplinary links. 1963 also saw the first BPSA ski trip.
In 1975, the Vice President raised concerns about student numbers and the lack of pre-registration places – a concern that is coming to the fore once again and a situation the current BPSA Executive is trying to improve. In 1982, the issue was raised again with the BPSA asking the University Grants Council to reduce places by 25%.
1992 saw 50 years of the BPSA, and initiation of the Reckitt and Colman (now Reckitt Benckiser) Student of the Year award. Though the format has changed, the prize of a trip to an international conference this competition still runs and is once again increasing in popularity.
The year 2005 saw the start of a Professional Development Scheme, then called the PDC, for all BPSA members. This was re-launched in 2009, and in recent years it has been refined and expanded and is becoming nationally recognised as a method of extra-curricular development for pharmacy students.
Since 2011, the BPSA has been working with the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme Board to help develop the MPharm programme and look at integration of the pre-registration training year into the degree. The topic of student numbers has also come round again, with the BPSA recently publishing a paper on the subject which gained national recognition. Finally, after a problematic 2011 registration exam , the BPSA was key in suggesting improvements of the exam for later years which appear to be working.
The BPSA has been successfully representing, educating and entertaining pharmacy students for the last 76 years – here’s to at least the next 76!