A December Update by the RCSEd Dental Dean

A December Update by the RCSEd Dental Dean

It is just over a year since I became Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery and this is an update on what has been going on in the Faculty. I can report that many of my manifesto promises have been fulfilled.


The College was quick to pick up the need to disseminate information about the pandemic and its effects on dentistry. A regular Thursday evening slot for our Faculty was secured and with excellent support from the College IT team we spoke to, and listened to colleagues around the world. Thanks to our contributors, the webinars were successful both in numbers tuning in and the quality of feedback.

Inspired by this, the Faculty took the bold step to host the first ever RCSEd World Dental Conference in September. Priced competitively and with world class speakers, the College supported this venture by allowing us to use an external professional conference provider. The feedback was superb, and the quality of presentations was exceptional.

As Dean I have represented the Faculty lecturing online for the Asia Pacific Dental Federation, the Commonwealth Dental Association, the Sri Lankan Dental Association, the Scottish Dental Association and the Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.


It has been a very difficult year for examinations: both in providing diets during the pandemic, but also maintaining our place in a competitive market while still maintaining the highest level of quality assurance that we all expect from the Edinburgh College.

The biggest change was the provision of online examination diets and the issues raised had advantages and disadvantages. The advantages included increased accessibility particularly for overseas candidates and the reduction in travel during Covid-19. It was hard to work in a different way and such radical changes to embedded practice can be uncomfortable. Without change, nothing improves and the overstretched staff in the Examination Department responded superbly to the unimaginable pressures caused by these huge alterations to the ‘norm’.

The Dental Faculty, with smaller examinations, was at the forefront of discussions. Late last year, we formed a short life working group to investigate if there are any reasons why online examinations would not be as robust educationally as face-to-face. The results were equivocal.

The main College instigated their own short life working group to look at online exams. In dentistry we organised a shadow group to provide details of our specific needs to feed into that work. This group has now reported and developed recommendations for the future. There are special dispensations for the dental exams and a request for our team to look at the feasibility of providing a specific online examination centre in Edinburgh for examiners to use for online diets. The candidates would be gathered in secure centres around the world. This would allow examiners to meet, discuss the exam, set questions and to standard set together. Further advantages include the cost savings of not travelling to the College for candidates.  We will maintain our physical presence across the world, but with targeted visits be associated with education delivery.

We will keep you informed of further progress on these exciting developments.

A Faculty fit for purpose

As both the new Honorary Secretary, Dr Stewart Barclay, and I settled into our new roles, we realised there were some aspects of the Faculty that needed a ‘spring clean’. It became obvious that the pathway for colleagues to become ‘Fellows without Examination’ was not clear nor in some cases relevant to today’s practice. Stewart, in conjunction with the College Secretary Dr Claire McNaught have revised this documentation.

Dr Richard Cure, the Education Convenor, and Professor Bill Saunders have secured our accreditation scheme which goes a step further than before to approve centres for delivery of education and examinations.

The next piece of work is to align the terms of refence laid out for each of the specialty advisory boards which are disparate. The reporting structure to the Dental Executive and to the Dental Council, who have final decision-making responsibilities, will be clear and aligned for each examination or specialty.

Council Members are now expected to provide a report on the work they are carrying out for the College at each Council Meeting.

At the very beginning of my tenure, I realised senior roles such as Dental Executive need to be able to allocate time to those jobs and it was decided to provide supporting deputies to the Hon Sec and to the Convenors of Education and Examinations. There does need to be further discussion within the College as a whole; the jobs are unpaid and the expectations on time are high. This limits those who can apply for these roles. 

The next phase of our work will look at what we can and should offer in our educational and examination portfolios. We need to decide what are we good at, what can we manage to deliver well and what we should leave to others?

New collaborations and an exciting future

New places to examine include Bahrain, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Sudan and Guyana. We have cemented close links with influential societies within the UK. Already we host the British Society of Oral Surgery within the College and now have memorandum of agreements with the British Society of Gerodontology, with the Scottish Dental Association, SAAD (the Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry)  and with the ‘Deciduous’ group of early years dentists. We are in discussion with other groups to widen our influence across dentistry.

This year we joined the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. At my very first meeting I was able to secure a promise from the National Medical Director, Professor Steven Powis, and the new Chief Executive for NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, that they will fully support the fluoridation of the water supplies in the UK: another manifesto aim.

40th Anniversary Celebrations

Next year celebrates the fortieth year of the Dental Faculty in Edinburgh and we are already planning a big celebration over three days, September 21st, 22nd & 23rd, when we can bring together as many of you as possible to the College in Edinburgh. Details will appear over the next few months.


I hope this description of our work gives you confidence that we remain part of an agile modern College relevant to today’s Members and Fellows, which respects our long history and remains the ‘friendly College’.

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