The Financial and Wellbeing Needs of UK Dental Students| Social Policy
Dental students in the UK face a unique situation that is not experienced by many other higher education students.
They face the pressures of professional training, high academic expectations, busy timetabling, and longer courses than the average UK degree. These pressures were further exacerbated by the additional challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ecorys were commissioned by the British Dental Association Benevolent Fund (BDABF) to explore the issues faced by dental students. In particular, the BDABF wanted to quantify the levels of financial and wellbeing issues experienced by UK dental students which their anecdotal evidence suggested were considerable.
We worked closely with the BDABF to implement a large-scale quantitative survey across all the UK Universities providing dental degrees. This required close work with both the BDABF and each university to make sure we reached as many students as possible. The complex subject matter meant careful questionnaire design was required so the exact extent of financial and wellbeing issues could be assessed.
Our final survey was completed by almost 500 students, with key findings including:
- A considerable majority of students (74%) stated financial issues impacted them, largely because of mental health, family circumstances, and dental students’ final year student finance funding reductions.
- Only 24% of students had accessed financial support, usually from their university or family and friends. However, over half of all respondents (51%) reported they had not accessed support despite needing it.
- High proportions of students experienced wellbeing issues, such as stress/burnout (90%) and performance anxiety (77%), yet only 33% had accessed support.
- Around half of all students were affected to some extent by depression or bereavement, with around a fifth affected “a lot” by each of these.
- Students felt COVID-19 had increased their need for financial (55%) and well-being (74%) support, with particular concerns over online classes and the suspension of university activities.
- Older students (25+), international students, postgraduates, those taking dentistry as a second degree, carers, or those with less access to parent income were more likely to have unmet support need.
Overall, these results suggest that there is an unmet support need for both the financial and wider wellbeing of a considerable number of UK dental students. Respondents identified better pastoral services, more mental health awareness within the culture of staff and dental schools, and more accessible routes to financial support and facilitating peer to peer support as opportunities to address the current gaps in their support needs.