Institute for Advanced Studies Research Fellows 2017-2018

Patricia Neville IASRF 2017-18

IASRF 2017-18 theme: Diversity

Dr Patricia Neville, Oral and Dental Sciences

Title of Research Project: Is dental school colour blind? Exploring the experiences of Asian and Black and Minority Ethnic(BME) students in dental school

Research Summary: This fellowship aims to establish if dental schools create a culture of inclusivity and diversity for their students and staff, or if they reproduce a hierarchy of white privilege. Dentistry has been traditionally considered a ‘white’ profession (Newton and Gibbons 2001). However, evidence from dental school enrollments indicate an inflow of students from ethnic minority backgrounds (approximately 38%) since the late 1990s (Bedi and Goldthorpe 2000; UCAS 2016) with “Asian” students the most represented ethnic group at 24.89% (UCAS 2016). Dentistry now has a higher proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students than any other university course in the UK (44%) (Dental Schools Council 2015, p.20). Nevertheless, it can be hard for people from non-white backgrounds to progress in academic and professional environments (e.g. Beagan 2001). In addition to struggling with the high workload and stress associated with studying medicine and dentistry (e.g. Morrison and Moffat 2001; Murphy et al. 2009), feeling like an ‘outsider’ can detract from BME students undergraduate experience and undermine academic performance. There is some evidence that BME students under-perform at dental and medical schools (e.g. Woolf, Potts and McManus 2011) as well as feel conspicuous among and unsupported by a largely white faculty.

This qualitative research project will interview a sample of dental students from Asian and BME backgrounds from University of Bristol and other dental schools in the GW4 consortium with the following objectives:

  1. To identify and explain the reasons why high achieving students from Asian and BME backgrounds are choosing a career in dentistry
  2. To examine if the culture in dental school is inclusive and culturally sensitive to the needs of Asian and BME dental students
  3. To explore if there is a relationship between ethnicity and academic performance/ underperformance in dental students.