Support for dental students announced as graduations are deferred

Bursary available for those who need to repeat a year

12 February, 2021 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

A bursary of up to £6,750 will be offered to dental students who have to repeat a year, the Scottish Government announced today.

It said the support will help mitigate the financial impact on students following the decision taken by Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow Dental Schools to defer graduation.

Because of the restrictions introduced to protect people from Coronavirus (COVID-19), final year dental students have not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience of aerosol generating procedures to allow them to graduate this year. Aerosol generating procedures were restricted as they often result in the release of airborne particles.

Graduation for students at Dundee and Glasgow Dental Schools has been deferred until summer 2022, with all current year groups repeating the 2020-21 academic year.  Graduation for students in final year at Aberdeen will be deferred until Christmas 2021 and all other students will repeat the 2020-21 academic year.

Mairi Gougeon, the Public Health Minister, said: “This difficult but necessary decision by Scotland’s Dental Schools will be extremely disappointing news for dental students across the country. This is not their fault and that is why the Scottish Government is doing all we can to support them and ensure they do not suffer financially.

“Due to the potential risk of spreading COVID from aerosol generating procedures, dental training has had to be restricted and many students have not gained the necessary clinical experience this year which has resulted in the difficult decision to defer graduation. To ensure dental students who have to repeat a year are supported, we are giving each student an extra year’s bursary to the value to of their normal student loan of up to £6,750.

“Aerosol procedures are common in dentistry placements and unusual in other student placements. Therefore we are assured that despite the wider impact on clinical placements for other controlled entry university subjects, such as medicine, nursing and midwifery, students on those courses will not be required to repeat a year and any extensions to their programmes will be covered by other arrangements.

“The quality and calibre of dental treatment in Scotland is outstanding and it needs to be protected by taking the appropriate measures in education to ensure future dental professionals have reached the General Dental Council’s standard of clinical competence and can enter the workforce with confidence.”

The announcement follows the British Dental Association calling for a “clear safety net to protect students, universities and the future of patient care”

David McColl, Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “This is the leadership we’ve needed from the Scottish Government. No one wanted graduations to be deferred, but now the next generation of dentists have real certainty, support, and protection from what would have been eye-watering levels of debt.

“It’s inevitable that COVID will widen oral health inequalities that have long blighted Scotland. We can draw some comfort that Ministers have helped secure the pipeline of new talent we’ll need to meet these challenges.”

Professor Phil Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, commented: “I appreciate this must be a very difficult time for dental students, who have missed out on a great deal of practical experience over the last year, due to ongoing lockdown restrictions.

“I understand and support the decision taken by Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow dental schools to defer graduation which will not have been taken lightly. Patient safety is always at the forefront of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s actions and this decision supports our efforts in this respect.

“Dentistry as a profession has been uniquely disadvantaged throughout the pandemic in comparison to other primary care services due to the lack of meaningful support made available for the sector, and this is one of the many resulting knock-on effects.

“I sincerely hope dental students are able to obtain a high standard of practical training and experience as part of their studies over the course of the coming academic year, which will benefit the dental profession as a whole going forward. 

“The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will actively seek to provide support for students through this period. We are now offering free affiliate membership to all dental students in Scotland, and we will continue to provide relevant educational content in order to further support their studies.”

Tags: Covid-19 / dental students / Graduation

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