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The Dentists of Tomorrow: Involving the public in the interview process

The School of Dental Sciences runs two undergraduate courses, a five year Bachelor of Dental Surgery course (71 places) and a three year BSc in Oral and Dental Health Sciences course (10 places). As part of the admissions and recruitment process we shortlist and interview approximately 240 students and each student is interviewed by two members of academic staff. For 2016 entry the Dental School decided to introduce lay people to our interview process to align with the University’s PPI (Patient and Public Involvement) Agenda. One of the main purposes of having lay people involved was to have an insight into what they would be looking for in a perspective dental student. We wanted them to use the same scoring system as the academic staff, to see if they were looking for different qualities and attributes.

"...all five were so friendly and enthusiastic we invited all of them to take part"

We recruited our lay people through Voice North who recruit members of the public to take part in activities and research across the University. We posted an advert with them and were really pleased to receive 9 applications. We invited 5 people along to the Dental School for an informal chat and all five were so friendly and enthusiastic we invited all of them to take part.

"The feedback was really positive and they had some really good suggestions for us to look at for the future"

The group came along to the Dental School and met the Admissions Team and got an opportunity to have a look around the School and Dental Hospital with one of our dental students. We asked them to take part in around four sessions each (8 students per session). We tried to put them with different interviewers so that they could see different interview techniques. As this was a trial, we were not able to let them ask the students any questions, however, this may change in the future.

"On the whole the entire process of including members of the public in the interviews has been a very enjoyable experience for us"

When the interview process was over, we arranged a focus group to discuss how the lay people found the whole process and whether they would like to take part again. The feedback was really positive and had some really good suggestions for us to look at for the future. We found that, although they were all looking for slightly different things, overall the scores and outcomes were very similar to those of the dental school staff which was very reassuring for us.

On the whole the entire process of including members of the public in the interviews has been a very enjoyable experience for us. They are an amazing group of people who have brought a lot of experience and qualities to our process and we are so pleased they all want to take part again in the future.

Michelle Smith
Admissions Officer
School of Dental Sciences
Newcastle University

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