Dentistry growth gnaws at staffing

January 27, 2006

The expansion of student numbers in dentistry could exacerbate staffing shortages in the discipline, a medical dean warned this week as funding chiefs decided on whether to fund a new dental school.

As The Times Higher went to press, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Department of Health were due to consider bids for an extra 100 funded student places in dentistry.

The bids for the places have been submitted by Manchester, York, Hull, Leicester, Ports-mouth and Southampton universities, the University of East Anglia and the Peninsula Medical School in conjunction with both Exeter and Plymouth universities.

All but one of the bids - that submitted by Manchester University - would involve the establishment of a new dental school, although Plymouth University currently trains dental technicians.

But David Gordon, dean of the medical faculty at Manchester, warned that creating a new dentistry school could worsen a staffing problem for a subject that already requires high student-to-staff ratios.

Professor Gordon said: "There is already a lot of difficulty in staffing existing schools. To find the people to staff a new one will largely involve recruiting academics from those schools. That will add to a difficult situation where staffing is already fairly precarious."

In its invitation for bids for more funded places for dentistry, the funding council called for responses to "make particular reference to the availability and numbers of clinical academics to take forward the increase".

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