Insights on Selection of Undergraduate Dental Students

C Cunningham* (Corresponding Author), K Kiezebrink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


INTRODUCTION: The goal of selection to dental education is to find those with the greatest aptitude for dentistry. Recently, schools have introduced a variety of tools, however, these have often been adopted without appropriate evaluation regarding existing evidence for fairness, reliability, or validity. We explore dental admissions staff beliefs about the quality of different selection tools, with the objective of exploring their decision-making in implementing selection practices.

METHODS: This qualitative study is underpinned by a social constructionist epistemology, in which our principal concern is 'explicating the processes by which people come to describe, explain, or otherwise account for the world (including themselves) in which they live'. We conducted individual interviews with 15 of the 16 UK dental admissions leads' to elicit their views around admissions processes and aims. Data coding and analysis were initially inductive, using thematic analysis. After the themes emerged, we applied a deductive framework of affordances to group themes, and then examined these for heuristics.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION: We identified three main themes; 'Selection Tool Use,' 'Widening Participation Practices,' and 'Professionalising the Admission Lead Role.' Admission leads spoke favourably of tools that allowed a 'holistic' view of the applicants 'potential'. Selection tools were favoured if they enabled 'Gut feeling'. Leads spoke of evaluating candidates, making sure they were 'rounded', and 'know what dentistry is all about'. In justifying the use of elements of their procedure, the use of heuristics was prominent.

CONCLUSION: In order to minimise the potential consequences of poor selection decisions it is important to acknowledge that dental admissions leads are at risk of depending on sub-optimal heuristics to make judgements about effective selection (shaped by previous practices) rather than using more rational decision-making processes based on the extant evidence (regarding the quality of different selection tools).. Future research may be usefully informed by the knowledge translation literature to offer solutions for improving selection practices in dental education.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Early online date30 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2022

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available on re-quest from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly avail-able due to privacy or ethical restrictions.


  • Qualitative
  • Heuristics
  • Dental Education
  • Selection


Dive into the research topics of 'Insights on Selection of Undergraduate Dental Students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this