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LONDON, UK: The UK government has adjusted the cap for medical and dentistry courses for 2021 in order to support the National Health Service workforce of the future. To meet the needs of the increased number of students, medical and dentistry schools across England will receive additional funding to expand courses for the coming year. However, as a result of this change, some classes in universities are oversubscribed and dental students have been offered a financial incentive to switch to a different university.
Owing to the adjusted cap and far more students than expected achieving the high A-level grades necessary to secure an offer, this year more students than ever will have the opportunity to study medicine or dentistry.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, 8,560 students from England have been accepted into medicine or dentistry, compared with 6,960 in 2020, an increase of 23%.
In a government press release, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, CBE, said: “Medicine and dentistry have always been popular courses and we have seen significant demand for places this year […]. We want to match student enthusiasm and ensure as many as possible can train this year to be the doctors and healthcare professionals of the future.”
The Dental Schools Council also welcomed the confirmation of the adjusted cap in order to “accommodate those applicants who have met the terms of their offers after achieving the required grades” in a statement.
Students who have won a place on an oversubscribed dentistry degree in England have been invited to join the Department for Education’s scheme in which medicine and dental students can claim £10,000 (€11,691) compensation to transfer from an oversubscribed institution to a university with available places.
Concerns about clinical education
Concerns about providing appropriate clinical training for the increased number of students have been expressed by different voices. According to the Dental Schools Council, providing clinical placement opportunities for dental students will be a challenge for dental schools and hospitals.
Even though Queen Mary University of London has agreed to additional funding to hire more staff in order to accept all students who met their offers, Prof. Paul Coulthard, dean for dentistry at the university, told The Guardian: “The challenge for all dental schools will be scaling up clinical teaching facilities, such as the number of dental chairs in partner hospitals, particularly as we still cannot work to capacity of space or pace because of COVID restrictions.”
He added that, because of limited dental practice owing to the pandemic, dental schools had struggled to offer dental students the clinical experience they needed in order to graduate and that graduation was only possible because educators worked in extra training sessions on evenings and weekends. “This meant students could catch up with much-needed clinical experience so they are ready to take up training posts this September. But of course the staff are exhausted now,” Coulthard explained.