Data published today by the Dental Schools Council reveal a 4% increase in the number of clinical professors, senior lecturers and lecturers in dentistry during the 2009-10 academic year.
There was also a 20% increase in the number of senior clinical teachers and clinical teachers.
But nine dental schools reported difficulties in recruitment, including the small pool of potential applicants with sufficient expertise.
Uncertainty around future funding leading to recruitment freezes is also an area for concern.
While dental schools are positive about the increase in total number of clinical academic staff for the fourth consecutive year, the number of research-active clinical academic dentists (professors, senior lecturers, readers and lecturers) remain 28% lower than in 2000.
Since 2005, with the smallest number of dental clinical academics (433 full-time equivalents – FTEs) in the decade, there has been a 25% expansion in student numbers and the creation of three new dental schools (Peninsula, Aberdeen, UCLan); the number of clinical academics has increased by 21% in this time, but the number of research-active clinical academic dentists has shrunk by a further 10% (to 390 FTE).
Key findings of the Dental Schools Council survey as at 31 July 2010 are:
• There were 525 FTE (876 individuals) clinical academics in post at 31 July 2010
• The Higher Education Funding Councils contributed 78% of funding for clinical academic posts in 2010, with 20% of posts funded by the NHS and just 2% from other sources
• The number of professors has increased from 91 FTE in 2000 to 112 FTE in 2010
• 62% of professors, senior lecturers and lecturers are aged over 46, compared with 51% in 2004 • 48% of clinical teachers and senior clinical teachers are aged over 46.
• Women now make up 36% of the clinical academic team compared with 32% in 2004
• Women continue to be under-represented at senior clinical academic grades, however 18% of all clinical professors are women, compared with 11% in 2004.
The small staffing levels in some dental specialties render them particularly vulnerable to change, with six of the fifteen specialties numbering fewer than 18 FTE compared with three specialties in 2000.
Across all specialties, there were 44 FTE vacant posts.
Nine dental schools report difficulties in recruitment, including the small pool of potential applicants with sufficient expertise, and uncertainty around future funding leading to recruitment freezes.
Professor William P Saunders, chair of the Dental Schools Council, said: ‘Clinical academia is one of the most rewarding dental careers involving exploratory research, teaching and patient care.
‘The increase in the number of clinical academics is encouraging, but the challenges in delivering high quality research and teaching, alongside clinical service to the NHS, will inevitably be compounded by budget cuts to both health and higher education.
‘Teaching and training in dentistry is incredibly intensive, and the pressure on staff with the 25% increase in student numbers is significant. As a community of dental schools, we look to work closely to protect and support the quality of teaching and research, as well as the contributions of clinical academics to the NHS and of clinicians to academia.’
The survey can be accessed online by clicking here