INTRODUCTION: Specific social groups remain under-represented within dentistry. While the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) aims to widen participation in under-represented social groups, there is no evidence in dental education that this aim is being met.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data over two admission cycles (2012 and 2013), including 3246 applicants to 10 UK dental schools, were analysed. Applicant and selected pools were compared to the UK population. Multiple logistic regression was used to investigate the association between demographic variables and UCAT and receiving an offer of a place at dental school.
RESULTS: Over-representation of Female, Asian, least deprived and grammar school groups were found in applicant and selected pools compared with the UK population. White ethnic applicants were significantly more selected than Black (OR 0.25), Asian (OR 0.57) and Mixed (OR 0.80) ethnicities, while least deprived applicants were significantly more selected than most deprived (OR 0.59). Grammar school education increased odds of selection by 1.8 when compared to state school. The addition of UCAT to the model for applicants reduced ethnic disparities but led to disparities between other groups.
CONCLUSION: Current widening participation practices focus on attracting applicants from lower socio-economic groups. However, this study showed that ethnicity, sex and educational background biases also affect demographic diversity in dentistry. The UCAT shows promise in levelling the playing field; however, widening access measures will only succeed if selection committees radically change selection processes to address the systemic biases, enabling the dentists of tomorrow to represent the society they serve.
Data Availability StatementThe data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.
- dental education
- widening access