Europe’s newest dental school will open at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) next month.
Costing £5.25m, it is one of the first new dental schools to be built in Britain for over a century, providing world-class teaching facilities and aiming to set new standards in dental training.
The school, which is to be officially opened by England’s chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft, will incorporate a range of state-of-the-art technologies including a phantom head room where students will carry out practical techniques on manikin heads, and a prosthetics laboratory where they will learn to make dental appliances such as crowns and dentures.
Professor Lawrence Mair, an experienced academic and consultant in restorative dentistry, is head of the school. He said: ‘This is a very exciting time for us. We had 181 applications for the first intake so the selection process was very competitive.’
The new school is the result of work undertaken by the Cumbria and Lancashire Medical and Dental Education Consortium, a joint venture between UCLan and the Universities of Liverpool, Lancaster and Cumbria. They, together with the NW Strategic Health Authority and local PCT Trusts, responded to government figures identifying the chronic need for more qualified dentists in the north west and were awarded funding from the Higher Education Funding Council to train an additional 32 students per year. Liverpool University has provided the curriculum and UCLan will be responsible for its delivery, supported by Liverpool and Consortium members.
The new four-year graduate entry course offers a balance of theoretical study and practical training, and will provide a new core of qualified dentists across the north west. Students will spend their first year studying on campus in the new school at the University of Central Lancashire, before relocating for three years’ clinical training at one of four newly-established Dental Education Centres (DECs) in Accrington, Blackpool, Carlisle and Morecambe Bay. The DECs will be clinical training centres where students will treat patients under supervision and gain first-hand experience within the communities they are most likely to serve after graduation.
Professor Mair added: ‘The successful applicants have now started the undergraduate programme in our new purpose-built school. This new school is very different from the established schools, in that we have four clinical education centres distributed around the north west rather than being confined to one location, which will allow our students to gain experience in the local communities. Four years may seem a long time before these first cohorts qualify but, even while they are training, they will be providing treatment in the local areas.’