Access and Participation Statement
This Access and Participation Statement sets out the College of Medicine and Dentistry’s (CoMD)’s commitment to widening participation and supporting students to access and progress from post-graduate higher education into their chosen academic or employment careers. CoMD will comply with all legal requirements in promoting equality and diversity and is committed to ensuring that all learners succeed in their studies.
This Statement will be available on the CoMD’s website and shared with our students at induction. Their feedback will be considered when the Statement is next revised and updated. Overall monitoring and evaluation of this Statement will be undertaken by CoMD’s Senior Leadership Team and reported to the Academic Council, the Board of Directors and Governance Board. The College offers students the opportunity to monitor this statement through the student representative system.
This statement applies to all validated programmes of study at the College having delegated authority that leads to awards from our accrediting partner Ulster University (UU) [CoMD: Franchise to Validation Strategy: December 2021]. The content follows the recommendations and guidance contained in the Regulatory Notice 1 Access and participation plan guidance for 2019-20 provided by the OfS which can be accessed at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/1093/ofs2018_03.pdf
CoMD’s faculty and clinical staff are committed to ensuring that students are provided with the assistance, resources and services needed to help them complete their education with the skills and knowledge to practice as highly competent clinicians, healthcare professionals and educationalists, with a commitment to high-quality and specialised patient care.
Our Mission is: to deliver focused world-class teaching, educating our students to become future clinicians, leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through advanced healthcare practice.
Our Vision is to be an outstanding and inclusive College community, characterised by uncompromised excellence in education, innovation and leadership for the advancement of healthcare, in support of the global common good. [CoMD Strategic Plan 2021-2026]
As a post-graduate provider CoMD caters for a niche market. CoMD, through its admissions procedures [COMD Franchise to Validation Strategy v1.2: 7.5.3 Recruitment and Admission of Students p.10] is committed to recruiting high-quality students by identifying merit and potential, and ensuring that its admissions process is fair and transparent to all, regardless of background. We value a rich diversity of students, and through our admissions policies and procedures, assess applicants consistently, transparently, fairly and equally without discrimination.
Access to Higher Education
CoMD has a strong sense of civic purpose with values grounded in helping to advance society through fair access to medical care, dental care and the allied healthcare professions in the UK as well as overseas through our graduates.
Our Birmingham campus is accessible to students (and patients), and our validated provision in postgraduate dental and related healthcare provides our students with a wide range of admissions and access pathways (APL) as well as financial packages to support those with non-traditional circumstances to enter postgraduate higher education while continuing to work in the dental profession.
Day to day governance of widening access and participation at CoMD comes under the remit of CoMD’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and the Teaching, Enhancement, and Quality Committee (which reports to the Academic Council). Together these bodies ensure that widening access and participation at the College is centrally planned, is fair, monitored, evaluated and embedded. CoMD offers training opportunities for its students in our clinics free of charge. We offer highly subsidised treatment to patients and allow patient self-referral to the clinic.
The College’s contribution to widening access and participation in the region, nationally and on global level is considerable. We are aware of our responsibility to contribute to the global good. We have therefore identified three areas of strength and focus:
- Employability and Skills Enhancement
- Innovation in delivering education to healthcare professionals in such difficult times, and
- Promoting Digital
All of these are at the heart of the greatest global travel and access challenges of our time. CoMD was one of the first UK institutions to have a crisis management plan during the pandemic and has already implemented successful strategies to support healthcare professionals. Of which, we were the first to adopt a free international Upskilling at Home Scheme in 2020, and through this we have delivered online education to over 20,000 dentists and dental care professionals.
Our students and staff value community and, as clinical care providers, we operate on a human scale; we seek to foster and support that sense of community, the culture of care, and the value it brings throughout our operations.
As an institution in the Midlands, we understand the importance of place and value greatly being part of the beautiful and forward-looking City of Birmingham, a city beating at the heart of the country that is at the centre of a rich and diverse culture. We aspire to enrich this culture and enhance the level of diversity in the local area, and also to provide dental clinical services as a referral centre for the community. We recognise that our actions have local impact and want the city to be proud of CoMD and the talented, caring students and clinicians who contribute so much, and go on to champion Birmingham throughout their lives.
The College sees widening participation as an integral part of its mission and ensures that its strategy is sufficiently proactive and continually under review on annual basis by the Governance Board and the Board of Directors. Our marketing strategy is designed to ensure diversity in international student recruitment from Asia, the Middle East and North African countries. We regularly review our recruitment data to ensure that diversity is monitored and maintained; this is carried out on annual basis by the Commercial Recruitment team. Our programmes of study are open to all applicants who meet our entry requirements, albeit that the majority who choose to study at CoMD are already registered dentists in their own right in their country of origin and are drawn to us by the level of courses and subjects that we offer.
CoMD researches the level of specialism and the level of employability between dentists and healthcare professionals on a global level, and we recruit students on the basis of whether there is a need for specific skills or specialism. An example of our approach to widening access is that we have identified that Pakistan has shortage of specialist periodontists. Consequently, in 2016 we recruited 22 students from Pakistan, 10 of whom enrolled and successfully completed their degree in periodontology and returned to Pakistan, the others were studying other dental courses. We are aware they are currently contributing to raising the standard of periodontics practice and some have taken the educational route to deliver education in this rare specialism.
In so doing, we ensure equality of opportunity in accessing our programmes for all applicants irrespective of colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, age, disability, religion or socio- economic background.
Our students came from nearly 40 different countries. Between our inception with BPP University in 2013 and 2019 these were: 12 European countries, 9 Middle East countries, 11 Asian countries, 5 African countries, and 2 from the American continent (see Table 1 below).
We have continued this strategy in partnership with Ulster University; since 2019, our Ulster students (total of 318) came from 38 countries: 11 European countries, 11 Middle East countries, 8 Asian countries, 4 African countries and 4 countries from the American Continent. (see Table 2 below).
Our students represent a diverse range of ethnic groups, with Asian/Asian British making up a significant proportion of the students as shown in Table 3 below.
In terms of gender, of those who chose to declare it, in total (BPP and Ulster University) we have recruited 287 male students and 279 female students.
Due to the clinical nature of the courses, it is rare for students with disabilities to enroll on our courses. Nonetheless, currently, Ulster University collects information regarding disabilities and provides a range of services to the students with disabilities. However, in the future, CoMD will undertake this responsibility and will make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled students to participate in their programme without disadvantage, following discussion with the student whilst also taking into account the patient safety.
Tuition Fees: As our programmes are at postgraduate level and are, in the main, specialist provision, we do not currently offer programmes that access UK student loan support. Instead, our students tend to have strong professional backgrounds, and our fees therefore reflect the specialist nature of the programmes we offer and the ability for dental and healthcare professionals wishing to study at postgraduate level. In view of this, the CoMD fee structure is not fixed to the basic fee amount set by OfS for undergraduate programmes. CoMD increases its study fees annually in line with the Retail Prices Index and takes account of the increased costs of delivering specialist educational services. The fees information is updated on our website annually.
In light of our recruitment data analysis, we aim to focus our efforts in the following areas over the next three years:
- To increase the entry rates of mature students on our Higher Education courses. Currently, the majority of our Masters students are mature students. Significantly 50% of the students are older than 30 years in age. We avail opportunities to those who wish to study while they are working in clinical practice (Blended Learning and Distance Learning models). They tend to take our courses for different reasons: some to develop further specialisation, others to change their career paths, while some others to simply advance their knowledge because of their personal interest in the specific subject. We will continue to reach out to mature students and facilitate their access. In addition to standard entry qualifications, we also consider professional/work experience of mature applicants to facilitate their entry into HE through our APL process.
- To increase the number of overseas students. We will endeavour to reach out to new overseas markets and with new curricula to recruit students onto our Higher Education courses to ensure enrichment of the student body (CoMD Strategy 2021-26).
CoMD has an established APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) system in place in line with UU APL Policy. We endeavour to facilitate the entry of participants into HE by considering applicants’ recognised qualifications (or other record of achievement) or their maturity and professional/work experience. Offers are given to those who are likely to fulfil their specific learning objectives and have the ability to benefit from the learning experience and achieve the standard of the award. Our programmes attract mature students who aim to advance their specialisation or broaden their career prospects. All those who are capable of benefiting from the Higher Education experience we offer are encouraged to apply and consult the UUAPL policy Where appropriate, students are offered transitional support to assist them in reaching the standards required.
In addition to the normal delivery mode for full-time and part-time students (which includes blended learning), most of our programmes are offered in distance learning mode, for which we have developed special online material. Distance Learning students are not required to travel to the UK to receive education and we used technology to enable the DL students to receive their education and participate in the clinical aspects of the programmes remotely.
CoMD welcomes students with disabilities and seeks to facilitate their inclusion. However, health and safety considerations of staff and students, GDC requirements for ‘Fitness to practise’ and the physical location of sections of the CoMD campus may restrict access for those opting to complete the full time or the blended learning programmes. Applicants are encouraged to discuss their needs with us so that an informed decision can be made. We will make reasonable adjustments where existing arrangements or provision place disabled candidates at a substantial disadvantage, and offer all reasonable assistance in enabling such students to meet academic requirements. CoMD operates strict, legally compliant procedures in maintaining confidential procedures.
CoMD is keen to ensure that its recruitment and admissions practices, processes and procedures work effectively, are fair and transparent and are subject to continual enhancement. All policies, procedures and processes related to recruitment, admissions, selection, induction and enrolment are reviewed on a regular basis by the College Senior Leadership Team and all data from admissions will be reported to the Academic Council and where required on to the University of Ulster [CoMD: Franchise to Validation Strategy: December 2021: 7.5.4 Module Data p 10].
We ensure that effective and appropriate arrangements are in place for providing feedback to applicants who have not been offered a place. We regularly review our admissions policies and procedures to ensure that they continue to support the mission and strategic objectives of the College, and that they remain current and valid in the light of changing circumstances. The Admissions Procedure offers all students a right to appeal against a negative recruitment decision through the student complaints procedures [CoMD: Franchise to Validation Strategy: December 2021: 7.5.9 p.11].
Since inception in 2013 (under BPP University) we have graduated 216 Masters level students (157 students with MClinDent, 21 students with PG Dip, 38 with PG Cert) (see Table 4 below). Our MClinDent BPP graduates achieved: 15 distinctions, 110 merits and 32 passes (see Table 5 below).
Under the partnership with UU from its inception in 2019 until the present time, we have graduated 12 MSc Ulster students, 3 with distinction, 7 with Merit and 2 with pass (see Table 7 below). We have also graduated 3 students with a PG Certificate (see Table 6 below).
Completion rates at CoMD have been consistently high:
- During the time when we partnered with BPP University from 2013-18 our overall retention rate was 87%. Of the original 283 enrolled, 216 completed/exited with an award, with 32 students still currently studying and 35 not continuing.
- From 2019-21 the overall retention rate was 82%, with 98% continuation being achieved on full time programmes.
It is important to point out that the retention rate for part time programmes was slightly lower during the period 2019-21 largely due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. A number of self- funded students found that the pandemic affected their ability to provide funding for their studies.
New students are required to attend induction sessions prior to the commencement of their courses so that they are appropriately introduced to their courses, tutors, and to the culture and operation of CoMD. During induction sessions, students are introduced to higher education and provided with important information such as the:
- Terms and Conditions, including their right to cancellation within 14 days;
- the students’ charter and general responsibilities of students;
- the Students Handbook;
- student engagement processes;
- VLE/Moodle, assessments, deadlines, plagiarism;
- GDPR compliance policies;
- responsible ICT use policy;
- library resources;
- health and safety issues;
- fitness to study and
- pastoral support
Students’ engagement and feedback in improving the quality and purposefulness of learning opportunities and their sense of belonging are essential. We therefore consider our students as partners in shaping and developing our support and provision and we do this through the Staff/Student Liaison Committee (SSLC).
As a small college, we have a benefit of providing individual levels of support to our students. We operate a Personal Tutor scheme in which our academic mentors/advisors of studies work with students, individually and in small groups, and provide them with the required support to help them improve their attainment rates and outcomes. We work with students from the very start of their studies, within induction sessions, to providing pastoral care and academic support throughout their time at the College, including providing extra-curricular activities and careers guidance. We encourage and support our students to achieve academically, grow in confidence and realise their potential. For this, we aim to build on our successes in student experience; we actively encourage a culture of care and foster a sense of community across our practices. Our exceptional clinical training, which is unique in the UK, and support opportunities available for employment to our students at all levels will continue to be a fundamental part of our distinctiveness. We will seek to ensure students get the most out of their time at CoMD, gaining valuable knowledge, transferable skills and intercultural competencies so they leave as well- rounded professionals with a competitive edge.
Progression (Employability and Careers)
CoMD is committed to ensuring that its students progress from their academic studies into their future careers and/or further study. We believe that the success of our students is our success. To ensure our students go on to pursue successful careers we carefully consider the level and quality of the learning support we provide to them. We start by planning, designing and structuring our programmes based on the students’ career prospects; by this, we seek to break down barriers for students in gaining employment, so that as many as possible can receive the richest possible learning experience both within CoMD and outside.
Beyond clinical careers, we explore wider employability initiatives such as in the academic and research arena that bring real value to our students. A number of our graduates have already applied to do a PhD study with us, some were offered the opportunity under partnership with Ulster University.
Our much-valued alumni network will be reinvigorated, and we will extensively increase our support of the role that alumni and other stakeholders play within CoMD, and therefore the role of CoMD for them. As life-long learning grows in importance, we will seek increasing opportunities for alumni to contribute to and benefit from CoMD throughout their lives. In our strategy document (CoMD Strategy 2021-26). We have intentionally highlighted the importance of corporate partnership for the employability of our graduates and have identified the essential KPI of:
- Growing our corporate and international partnerships to drive employability and making an impact to healthcare at national and international levels, aiming to achieve 100% employability within six months of graduation.
- Growing our identity as a strong healthcare institution in which collective endeavour and a culture of care enable the advancement of all.
- Growing our strategic diversification in the sector to allow us to fulfil our ambitious vision in enhancing healthcare workforce (Medical and Pharmacy programmes).
CoMD offers ongoing academic support to students through lectures, seminars/tutorial sessions, one-to-one academic support, special academic skills workshops and academic writing surgeries. These aim to provide academic support to help students improve their attainment rates and outcomes. A number of academic support workshops are available to students in addition to their tutorial sessions and individual support provided by tutors. These workshops include: research methods, literature search strategies and critical reading and writing skills; writing effective essays, reports, and critical reflection writings; referencing and bibliographies; approaching assignments, revision and examinations, and dissertation workshops. Each student is allocated a one-to-one supervisor to guide them throughout the research process until they complete the project and publish their dissertation.
Each programme board analyses students’ attainment data for each module and course and we produce an annual academic Course Report for each programme, which critically reviews the delivery of each programme of study [CoMD: Franchise to Validation Strategy: December 2021: 7.4.1 Statement on Course Monitoring p.9]. The Academic Council scrutinizes Course Reports before these are sent to the University of Ulster for critical feedback to COMD. We also take into consideration the results of student surveys and module evaluations. In light of the data analysis and students’ qualitative feedback, CoMD puts in place structures and means to improve attainment levels through enhancing support or providing more focused support for specific groups of students who need it.
CoMD provides a number of mechanisms for the ongoing engagement of students in the strategy and operations of the College, as well as to ascertain their feedback on the delivery of their programmes and the quality of learning opportunities provided. Student representatives are invited to Teaching Enhancement and Quality Committee, and will be members of Academic Council and the Governance Board. In addition, all students are invited to provide their feedback and evaluation on the delivery of each module. These are received by the Teaching Enhancement and Quality Committee and issues identified and reported to the Academic Council.
This Access and Participation Statement outlines our intentions and efforts to enable higher education access, success and progression, thereby providing valuable education, achieving our Institutional mission and ensuring the continued success of our students.
It is central to our institutional mission to provide meaningful and valuable education, and to ensure that we produce scholars and professionals who are able to play a positive and constructive role in society and the wider dental healthcare profession. This underpins everything we do. In view of this, we will continually strive to improve outcomes for all of our students from pre-application stage through to Masters’ degree completion and their onward academic or profession careers.
Jagdeep Khela, Director of Student and Academic Services and Sadia Jahanzeb, Director of Academic Affairs, CoMD