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Everything you need to know about the OSPAP

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Are you a registered pharmacist in your own country and want to practise in the UK? You’ve probably heard of the Overseas Pharmacist Assessment Programme (or OSPAP, as it’s more commonly known) but do you have all the information you need to apply? Read on to find out more about the OSPAP at The University of Sunderland. 

What is the OSPAP?

The OSPAP is a recognised qualification designed for qualified pharmacists outside the European Economic Area who are looking to become registered pharmacists in the UK. In order to progress to the next stage of registering as a pharmacist in the UK, you must complete the OSPAP postgraduate diploma (PgDip). There’s the option to study further and gain an MSc but this isn’t mandatory to practise.

The course content is reflective of the accreditation requirements of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) who accredit both our OSPAP and our MPharm courses.

Entry requirements

Before you can apply to study the OSPAP course, you must first apply to the GPhC and pass their adjudication process which involves them assessing your qualifications and your English language skills (for example, your IELTS score). Please note, if you experience any issues with the adjudication process you must contact the GPhC directly – the University cannot help with this.

When you apply to the GPhC, you will make choose a preferred institution at which you wish to study the OSPAP – so make sure you have done your research to see which university and course suits you the best (don’t worry, you can choose more than one!). The GPhC will then send your form onto the institutions for whom you have shown a preference for further assessment and we will send you a University of Sunderland application form from there.

As part of your application we will ask you for a copy of your GPhC approved adjudication letter and proof of English language proficiency (again, this could be your IELTS score). When you have been made an offer, this will be subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check - we will send you the documentation for this. Please note that you can only complete a DBS check if you have been living in the UK for more than three months. If you haven’t, don’t worry – we can also accept a letter of good standing from the police in your home country.

Course structure

Teaching on the OSPAP takes place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, which means you have Mondays and Fridays free for your individual study time or part-time work. You’ll learn through a wide variety of teaching and learning methods which include lectures, seminars, simulated pharmacy sessions and clinical skills, as well as simulations in the University’s mock hospital wards. Teaching will also include opportunities to collaborate with students from other healthcare disciplines (such as medicine, nursing and occupational therapy) in an interprofessional learning capacity.

As well as on-campus learning, you will undertake placements throughout the course which can be block weeks, or could take place on a Monday or Friday (i.e. when teaching is not taking place). You will experience placements in hospital pharmacies, in the community, at GP surgeries and in primary and secondary care. Your placements are an excellent way to discover what kind of pharmacist you want to be and where you want your career path to take you.

Pharmacy students working in simulated pharmacy

Foundation Training

After completing the OSPAP, you will move onto the next stage of your training process by progressing onto a pre-registration year (foundation training). All OSPAP and MPharm graduates must successfully complete this year in order to register and practise as a pharmacist in the UK.

If you choose to study the PgDip, you will start your foundation training year in the July or August of the calendar year you complete the OSPAP, whereas if you decide to complete the MSc, you will start in the October. Be aware that your foundation training place must be arranged before you even commence the OSPAP, so organisation is key! All students who apply for a foundation training year must be interviewed – interviews take place through Oriel, who are a company that recruit pharmacists, doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals in the UK. Applications for the foundation training year close in June, interviews take place in September and pre-registration job offers are sent out in November.

Sound complicated? To give you a better idea of how it all works, let’s assume you have applied to start the OSPAP course in September 2022. You would complete the course and therefore start your foundation training year in 2023 (the month would depend on whether you choose to do the PgDip or the MSc, as stated above). You would need to complete your pre-registration application by June 2022 and if you were successful, you would be invited to interview in September 2022 (around the same time you would start the OSPAP). From there, if you pass Oriel’s interview process, you will be sent your pre-registration offer in November 2022.

You may be wondering how you can find your foundation training placement, and if there is any support available. The GPhC has some great resources on their website, including links to approved training sites, while Health Education England operates a national recruitment scheme for all hospital placements and other providers in England and Wales (which you can apply for through Oriel). 

We have a strong track record of training pharmacy students here at the University of Sunderland – did you know that Sunderland school of pharmacy had the highest percentage pass rate (90.48%) of first attempt candidates (OSPAP route) in the June 2019 GPhC registration assessment?


Our graduates go on to work as pharmacists in a wide variety of places, including hospital pharmacies, community pharmacies and in primary and secondary care. Some graduates choose to stay in academia, either going into research or teaching – for example, OSPAP graduate Tarirai Moyo works in a community pharmacy, alongside part-time teacher practitioner work here at the University of Sunderland.

We’re often asked what job opportunities are available after completing the OSPAP course and what the odds are of getting a job as a pharmacist. The answer to that is that the odds are quite high! There are plenty of jobs available – your employability all comes down to how much effort you put into your work and how well you do during your interview for a foundation training place. You get out of university what you put into it, so if you are committed and hardworking, you will succeed. Remember, this is a full-time course and you must attend – it’s not distance learning! Our OSPAP course is accredited by the GPhC and therefore attendance is a requirement of our accreditation.

Before you go…

We’re a well-established pharmacy school, having taught pharmacy for 100 years so we have lots of experience and knowledge to pass on to you. As part of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, we have an open-door policy which means we’re always happy to help you when you need support – whether that be academic or personal.

If you have any questions about the OSPAP course, please contact programme leader Deanne Marshall

Three male pharmacy students working in the mock hospital ward

Published: 14 April 2021