• core skills;
  • curriculum audit;
  • dental undergraduates;
  • postal survey

Objectives: To identify the core skills required of dental graduates, and to identify if and when these skills had been acquired.

Design: Postal questionnaire containing a stimulus list of clinical, technical and professional skills.

Subjects and setting: General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) registered as vocational trainers, Vocational Dental Practitioners (VDPs) starting their vocational training (VT) year and VDPs ending their VT year in the NHS Trent Region of England.

Method: The list of skills on the questionnaire was formulated following discussion with a group of 4 clinical academics and 5 GDPs working in the University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry. The questionnaire was sent to the total population of GDPs and VDPs, and responses were requested on an anonymous basis. The purpose mirrored that of a previous survey undertaken in the University of Sheffield Medical School to identify core skills (1), initially in this present survey, defined as skills required by the majority of GDPs (>50%) and/or used by VDPs (>50%) in their VT year.

Results: 45 of the skills were identified by GDPs as those they expected of the new graduate. All these core skills had been acquired by >50% of VDPs commencing their VT year with 32 of the skills acquired by >75% of that group. Of the group ending their VT year, 90% and above had acquired the majority of these skills. At the time of graduation >50% of VDPs had acquired 10 skills not expected by GDPs. At the end of the VT year, 6 of these unexpected skills had been acquired by >75% of VDPs.

Conclusions: The survey enabled us to audit the skills required at the end of the undergraduate course and provided the basis for monitoring skills development in undergraduate dental students.