Social profile changes of first-year dentistry students in South Australia

Background: The characteristics of dentistry students and their motivation to become dentists have been of constant interest over time. Changes in admission criteria were introduced in South Australia in 1997 to include assessment of personal attributes (such as logic, problem solving, and abstract non-verbal reasoning) in addition to scholastic merit.

Objective: This study aimed to determine changes in the profile of the first-year dentistry student population associated with changes in admission criteria. Methods: Student surveys were conducted with al1 first-year dental students from 1993-2005. Overseas students (different admission criteria) were excluded from the analysis. Sociodemographic characteristics, motivation to study dentistry and expectations of dentistry as a career were collected and compared pre (1993-96) and post (1997-2005) change in admission criteria.

Results: A total of 409 students aged between 17 and 44 years (mean 19.5 yrs) (response rate 90-95%) were included in the analysis. The percentage of female students increased slightly (41.5% to 47.3%). Significant increases (Chi-square p<0.05) included university-educated parents (fathers 51.1-67.6%; mothers 33.0-50.6%); interstate students (25.5-47.3%); preferred course dentistry (58.9-75.4%); predominant motives good working hours’ (64.9-77.1%), fits with family’ (39.4-55.3%); and Professional status’ decreased (83.0-64.4%); decision influenced by a dentist (38.3-64.1%). When stratified by interstate or local students: local students showed a decrease in the percentage of state school (48.6-29.5%) and overseas-born (47.1-25.3%).

Conclusion: There has been a sharp increase in the percentage of students with more privileged backgrounds, and from a more national than local geographic origin. Career choice has moved toward work/family issues, reflecting the balance of male and female students.

JF Stewart*, AJ Spencer

Presented at the 84th General Session and Exhibition of the IADR, 28 June – 1 July 2006, Brisbane Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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