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Standards of education

21 November, 2023

The Standards of education

Our Standards for Education have three standards and 21 requirements which apply to all UK dental education and training programmes leading to registration with the GDC as a dentist or dental care professional (DCP).  The Standards are the regulatory tool used by us to ensure that a programme is fit for purpose and are central to our quality assurance processes.

The Standards outline three areas that we expect education and training providers to address in their training programmes so that students and trainees who are awarded the qualification can then register to practise in the UK. These areas are: 

Standard 1 - Protecting patients (Requirements 1-8).
Providers must be aware of their duty to protect the public. Providers must ensure that patient safety is paramount, and care of patients is of a suitable standard. Any risk to the safety of patients and their care by students must be minimised.

Standard 2 - Quality evaluation and review of the programme (Requirements 9-12).
Providers must have in place effective policies and procedures for the monitoring and review of their programmes.

Standard 3 - Student assessment (Requirements 13-21).
A programme’s assessment must be reliable and valid. The choice of assessment method must be appropriate to prove achievement of the GDC Learning Outcomes. Assessors must be fit to perform the assessment task.

Assessing providers against the standards

In assessing education providers’ compliance with these standards, we determine whether the ‘requirements’ that sit under each standard are ‘met’, ‘partly met’ or ‘not met’. 

A Requirement is met if: 

‘There is sufficient appropriate evidence derived from the inspection process. This evidence provides the education associates with broad confidence that the provider demonstrates the Requirement. Information gathered through meetings with staff and students is supportive of documentary evidence and the evidence is robust, consistent, and not contradictory. There may be minor deficiencies in the evidence supplied but these are likely to be inconsequential.’ 

A Requirement is partly met if: 

‘Evidence derived from the inspection process is either incomplete or lacks detail and, as such, fails to convince the inspection panel that the provider fully demonstrates the Requirement. Information gathered through meetings with staff and students may not fully support the evidence submitted or there may be contradictory information in the evidence provided. There is, however, some evidence of compliance and it is likely that either (a) the appropriate evidence can be supplied in a short time frame, or, (b) any deficiencies identified can be addressed and evidenced in the annual monitoring process.’

A Requirement is not met if:

‘The provider cannot provide evidence to demonstrate a Requirement or the evidence provided is not convincing. The information gathered at the inspection through meetings with staff and students does not support the evidence provided or the evidence is inconsistent and/or incompatible with other findings. The deficiencies identified are such as to give rise to serious concern and will require an immediate action plan from the provider. The consequences of not meeting a Requirement in terms of the overall sufficiency of a programme will depend upon the compliance of the provider across the range of Requirements and the possible implications for public protection’.

Types of quality assurance activity

We undertake three different types of quality assurance activity:

Evaluation of new programme submissions

An education provider can submit a request to create a new programme. In their submission they must set out how they will ensure that the qualification will meet the Standards for Education, including how the students will demonstrate all of the GDC learning outcomes . Supported by our pool of Education Associates (EAs), new submissions are reviewed against our standards and recommendations presented to the Registrar. For DCP programmes, the Registrar makes a final decision on whether to grant provisional approval of the programme. If the programme is provisionally approved, it will be subject to a full inspection prior to the graduation of the first student cohort, before full approval will be granted. For dental programmes, the Privy Council awards Dental Authority Status to allow delivery of a programme, and the GDC will inspect to ensure ongoing sufficiency of the programme and report their findings to the Registrar.


We review written evidence submitted by education providers to ensure their ongoing compliance with the Standards for Education. The evidence is reviewed by our EAs who make a recommendation about whether the requirements are met. Where standards are partially or not met, this may trigger an inspection. Depending on the level of concern an inspection may be required rapidly or will be planned within the coming academic year.

In 2022 we piloted a streamlined approach to or monitoring activity that reduced the burden on providers to answer a large number of questions and also to submit documentary evidence to support their responses. We introduced a signed declaration that providers had to return with their responses that would support the integrity of the response. This approach was well received, and we have continued to build upon it throughout this academic year.


We undertake a risk-based approach to inspection, which can be triggered by a number of risk factors, such as:

  • Risks identified through the monitoring process
  • Lack of progress against actions arising from monitoring or previous inspections
  • Complaints received relating to the programme or provider
  • Analysis of fitness to practise cases against recent graduates of a programme
  • Issues identified in other programmes offered by the same provider

An inspection will be undertaken by a small team of GDC appointed EAs. They will usually meet with a various staff, students, and stakeholders to explore a range of evidence against the Standards for Education. At the end of the inspection a report will be produced which may include requirements and recommendations for the education provider. The latest inspections can be found here.

Where a provider has not met or partly met any of the requirements, they are given specific actions within a set timescale that must be met in order to remediate. In this academic year, the EQA Team have developed a formalised process within the monitoring framework that ensure that providers are required to demonstrate progress against any set actions – this is called ‘Progress Monitoring’ and allows the team to gain assurance that education providers are taking action to address concerns in a clearly defined timescale.

Distinguishing the different education provider types

Dental and DCP education is delivered across the four nations by a number of different provider types. In a majority of educational models that the GDC quality assures, the educational provider that delivers the course also awards the qualification that is being studied for, in other instances the body that awards the qualification is separate from the education provider. The provider would have been required to go through an approval process and demonstrate that that they meet the criteria needed to deliver the education, training in certain cases, assessment that must be completed in order to achieve the qualification.

The GDC reviewed the differing provider types through 2022-23, with a focus on being able to refine and improve quality assurance processes so that they were more relevant to the differing educational providers and therefore any quality assurance activity would yield better and more reliable results.

There are four main types of education and examination provider, and for clarity, as these are referenced throughout this report, these are broken down as follows:

Awarding organisations
An organisation that sets the examination and awards the qualification. Often an awarding organisation will provide an approval process for independent training providers who, if they meet the criteria, are able to deliver qualifications that are accredited by that awarding organisation.

Education Providers (Undergraduate
Often referred to as an ‘institution’, university or college. This is the academic hub that provides the education and training and, in many cases, the qualification that leads to registration.

Training Providers/Commissioners (Postgraduate Specialty)
Used to those that deliver specialty training that leads to the award of a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST.) Dental postgraduate training in the UK is overseen and delivered by NHS England (NHSE), Health Education Improvement Wales (HEIW), NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA). 

Royal Colleges
The GDC works with five Royal Colleges in England and Scotland:

  • Royal College of Pathologists
  • Royal College of Radiologists
  • Royal College of Surgeon Edinburgh
  • Royal College of Surgeons England
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

The Royal Colleges are professional bodies and responsible for areas in both undergraduate and postgraduate dental education and training. The Royal College of Surgeons England is also responsible for the award of the Licence in Dental Surgery (LDS) examination.