Challenges Facing Dental Education
India’s dental education sector has been witnessing a significant drop in demand for Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) courses, resulting in a 10%-55% vacancy rate in seats over the past five years. Factors such as limited growth opportunities, low compensation, and a lack of oral health awareness, particularly in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, are contributing to this trend.
The Hard Facts: Startling Vacancy Rates
The Hindu’s investigation of data from the Dental Council of India reveals that of the 1,89,420 BDS seats offered between 2016-17 and 2022-23, a staggering 36,585 remained unfilled. This concerning trend extends to both undergraduate and postgraduate dental courses across the country, with private dental colleges in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Punjab feeling the greatest impact.
Adjusting Admission Eligibility: A Potential Solution?
Eligibility for dental institute admission requires a minimum score of 50 percentiles in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG). However, given the high vacancy rate, Karnataka proposed lowering this threshold to 20 percentiles in 2021, after nearly 60% of seats in private dental colleges remained vacant following two admission rounds.
The Impact on Postgraduate Courses
Similarly, over 5,000 of the 38,487 available MDS seats from 2017-18 to 2022-23 were not filled. Private dental colleges in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Punjab have been hit the hardest, according to industry insiders.
An Urgent Need for Solutions
This trend underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address the challenges facing dental education in India. The lack of job and growth opportunities, coupled with low pay and little awareness of oral care in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, are leading to a decline in demand for graduate and post-graduate degree courses in the sector.