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Embarking on a professional career: social advantage in dentistry and medicine. UK dental and medical student applications and admissions, 1996-2011


Objectives The objectives of this research were to compare trends in applications and admissions to dentistry and medicine by sociodemographic status, country/region, academic experience and attainment, for UK domiciled students, and also to compare the odds of gaining admission to each course.

Methods Secondary analysis of student data from University and College Admissions Services (UCAS) for focused, successful, UK domiciled applicants whose preferred subject was medicine or dentistry from 1996-2011. Trends for both programmes were examined using univariate and multivariate analysis including logistic regression, both with and without tariff scores.

Results Admission ratios to dentistry and medicine are similar, fluctuating over this period. These professions attracted more applications from females, people of Asian ethnicity, direct entrants to university, pupils from selective schools and Londoners. Males, students of White and Black ethnicity, those from England (excluding London), and from lower social groups, were under-represented. The odds of applicants gaining admission were lowest if male, mature (>20 years), of Black ethnicity, from a lower socioeconomic classification, or domiciled in England. When tariff was included in the model, the odds of acceptance for dentistry and medicine were higher for applicants achieving high tariff scores.

Discussion This analysis highlights geographic disparities and demonstrates how certain groups remained under-represented, with social inequalities clearly reflected in admissions. The complexity of the societal challenge in accessing these courses must not be underestimated. Social status, geographic region and selective schools remain important determinants of entry, emphasising the importance of educational reform.

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Correspondence to Jennifer E. Gallagher.

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Niven, V., Andiappan, M., Cabot, L. et al. Embarking on a professional career: social advantage in dentistry and medicine. UK dental and medical student applications and admissions, 1996-2011. Br Dent J 227, 411–418 (2019).

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