This is the second feature article in a series of posts where I write an in-depth profile of each dental school in the UK.
Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, is the focus of this profile.
The full name is, of course, Queen’s University Belfast, but everyone commonly calls it QUB or simply Queen’s.
I have collaborated with a dental student called James McKenna to bring you this feature. James is currently a third-year dental student at QUB so is almost halfway through the course when writing this.
You can of course simply visit the websites from each dental school to find out a lot of the information that will be included in these posts, but the unique edge these will have is that they are written by current dental students.
If you rely solely on what the official dental school websites show/tell you, I don’t think you’d get a proper feel for the school – they are great resources, but so generic and official.
This detailed post will cover all aspects of QUB Dental School, including:
- The Dental Hospital
- Academic Facilities
- Dental Research Focus
- E-Learning and Online Portal
- Other Facilities
- Size of the Dental School
- Entry Requirements
- Dental School Calendar Events
- Interview Style
- Graduation Ceremony
The Queen’s University Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree programme is recognised and approved by the United Kingdom’s General Dental Council (GDC) as a registrable qualification. This means that you can work anywhere in the UK after qualification.
QUB has one of the best official websites for the UK dental schools. If you are interested in QUB for dentistry then you should definitely visit and research their web pages, where you can find out all the information you will need.
You can also find out more through their QUB Dentistry video profile on YouTube too.
As the name suggests, QUB is based in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland. It is part of the United Kingdom.
Most first-year students will live in Elms Village for the 1st year – it’s a huge village of Student Halls. The rent here is all-inclusive (i.e. it includes the cost of Wi-Fi, Heating, Water, Electricity etc) and it’s a great place to make new friends and meet other like-minded students. It has washing facilities and the communal areas are cleaned weekly.
Also, the Treehouse has a games area, with pool and ping pong tables, TVs with sports channels, a shop and a study area.
Elms Village has a great location – it’s a short 15-20 minute walk from the campus – so it feels like you aren’t smothered by the university. Right beside the village is a 24-hour shop with great prices. There is also a Tesco just an 8-minute walk away to get your weekly groceries and drinks.
Elms Village is fantastic and you’ll make friends for life here.
Queen’s also has other student accommodation options: BT1 and BT2, which are closer to the Belfast City Centre. They are more modern, but also more expensive than Elms Village, although, the price for BT1 and BT2 includes gym access. Any student studying in Belfast can live here though, while Elms is exclusive to first years. Other accommodation options include Mount Charles and Guthrie House.
The Medical Biology Centre (MBC) is where you will have the majority of your classes in 1stand 2ndyear. It is very close to the main campus and right beside the city hospital. Its got lecture theatres, labs, practical rooms for anatomy and tutorial rooms.
Then in 3rd- 5th year, you’ll spend all your class time at the Royal School of Dentistry, which is a part of the Royal Victoria Hospital. You’ll be here a little in 1st and 2nd year to use the Clinical Techniques Lab (CTL). Here you’ll practice cutting and filling cavities.
THE DENTAL HOSPITAL
The School of dentistry has a great shop close to it called ‘The Busy Bee’ where you can buy lunch. Hot food is also served in the canteen upstairs. There is a park nearby if you ever want to walk/relax between classes with your friends.
The dental hospital, as mentioned above, is a part of the Royal Victoria Hospital. This is where your patients will voluntarily come to be treated in 3rd–-5thyear. It’s amazing. The staff – nurses, consultants and supervisors are all so helpful and skilled; they really want you to become the best dentist you can be.
Our CTL has new dental units and phantom heads to help give us a realistic experience when we practice.
- In 1st year you get a session in here every other week. Here you’ll learn to polish teeth, cut occlusal cavities and the instruments and their uses.
- Then in 2nd year, you’ll be here every Thursday to cut cavities and fill using Amalgam, composite or glass ionomer.
- Then in 3rd year you’ll have your Endodontics course here
Dental students have fantastic access to libraries – We can use the amazing McClay Library –it’ss recently refurbished and located on the main campus across 4 floors.
In the MBC, there is also the Biomed Library which is great for medical and dental students to study in between classes or if you find the McClay has too many people.
Furthermore, besides the School of Dentistry Dental Hospital, there is the Medical Library – it’s ideal for studying between clinics. You’ll find a lot of postgraduate medical and dental students there too. The atmosphere is great and the staff are very helpful
From Semester 1 of the first year, we are allocated to Community Dental outreach clinics – these are so enjoyable. The dentists here are so helpful and really help teach things in a way that first years will understand. They have a great was with their patients and their families. Everyone always looks forward to attachments in community clinics.
DENTAL RESEARCH FOCUS AT QUB
At Queen’s, there are opportunities to do research with the School of Dentistry with Summer Studentships – you’ll be assigned a topic and be asked to collect data.
A lot of the leading consultants at QUB carry out their own research – last summer one of our teachers looked at the effect of aspirin on the regeneration/repair of dentine.
This year we have set up our Wiki Dental Project Society this year – we will try, using research papers, to edit the dental pages on Wikipedia – both for the general public and dentists.
Queen’s isn’t huge into research for dental students, but hopefully, over the next few years, we can make improvements here.
Queen’s Online is a pretty efficient online portal. It rarely undergoes maintenance. It’s very easy to use. Here we can get video tutorials, lectures, study guides, emails and submit pieces of work. We also get out exam results on here via a link to QSIS. There are also general university announcements made here.
Our lecturers are good at uploading lectures in advance of giving the lecture, so that gives us time to print it out and read through it.
Unfortunately, while there is a timetable option available on QOL, the dental school doesn’t use it and instead gives us a PDF timetable for the first and second year.
Then in 3rd-5thyear, the timetable is general for the whole year group and you’ll have to make your own personal one – a diary is essential.
At the school of dentistry, there are some quiet rooms for study and prayer.
At Queen’s, there are chaplaincies for all the religions. They receive funding but rely on support and help from their users. It’s a great place to make new friends outside of dentistry.
The QUB gym is called ‘The PEC’ and its great. There is an incredible variety of gym classes, with great instructors. There is also gym courses eg. Pilates that will cost extra. Student membership is from £15 a month and its great for everyone – from those looking to improve fitness to those trying to increase in size with the weights rooms.
There are also 2 Pure Gyms nearby which are open 24 hours. There is a Belfast city council gym called Olympia, on the Boucher Road.
The Student’s Union is between the MBC and the main Lanyon Building. So, you’ll see lots of it in 1stand 2ndyear. Its got a bookshop where you can buy textbooks, a lunch area, a café, a shop with lunch meal deals, a bar, a rooftop bar and special space for those students who are starting/running their own business. It’s currently undergoing a huge renovation project – so its moved just down the street for a few years, but it’s still very accessible.
SIZE OF THE DENTAL SCHOOL
There are around 290 dental students at QUB.
Our dental school has 60 students in each year. With the option now to do an intercalated degree, that can either increase or decrease from 3rdyear onwards, but generally, it will be around 55-65. I think it’s a perfect size. You get to know everyone well and you make friends for life. You also make friends with students in the years below and above due to being on clinics with them and seeing them around the dental school. There isn’t really any ‘cliques’ at QUB as everyone is really friendly and for the most part, we look out for each other.
We have 6 tutor groups in the year group, with 10 students in each group. What group you’re in changes each year. In 3rd year, you are randomly assigned a clinical partner who you’ll work closely with all year. When I’m treating a patient, they’ll nurse for me, and vice-versa.
In 4th year, the partners change, and you’ll get a new partner, and a new one for 5th year.
THE DENTAL CURRICULUM
Here are brief summaries of what you can expect the course to be like across the five years. James has made a detailed curriculum summary for 1st and 2nd year – if you would like a copy of these, just drop him an email (his email address is at the end of this feature post).
It’s mainly lectures. You go to CTL and work on the phantom heads every other week to practice drilling and polishing teeth. There are 4 clinical observations to go to during the year – these can be community outreach clinics or observing 4th and 5th years in the dental hospital. There are 3 modules and 3 end-of-year exams, with small 10% tests during the year.
The number of lectures and the difficulty increases. There are opportunities though to do presentations to the class and there is more teamwork.
You will now visit the CTL once a week and work on the phantom heads. You’ll begin cutting more complex cavities and filling them with composite. You’ll also apply fissure sealant.
The timetable takes a much greater clinical focus. You will spend most of your time on clinics treating your own patients, with the support and supervision of your clinical teachers. There will be only a few lectures each week in these clinical years of the course. There are Outreach Centre attachments where we can observe community dental care.
INTERCALATED DEGREE OPTION
During the degree, you can decide to study for an extra year to achieve an additional Intercalated BSc degree. This may be undertaken at the end of the second or third year and involves an extra year of study (usually taken as a ‘year out’ from the Dentistry course) and allows students the opportunity to explore an area of interest in much greater depth. It involves a deeper exposure to research and research methods and provides an invaluable experience.
At QUB, the uniform for Clinics are LIGHT BLUE TUNICS
Prospective dental students are always interested to know what the entry requirements are – if you want to find out what the specific expectations the dental school has for all applicants the best place to check if the official QUB website.
You need to have (or be predicted to achieve) three As at A-Level. These need to include Biology or Human Biology AND Chemistry along with one other subject. You also need to have a minimum of a grade C in GCSE Mathematics if you have not done AS-Level of A-Level Maths.
QUB is a very competitive dental school. Initially, applicants are ranked on their academics and UKCAT performance.
For school leavers (Upper sixths/Year 13s) your GCSE performance is scored. For NI, GB and EU applicants, GCSE performance in the best 9 subjects will be scored with 4 points awarded for an A* (grade 8 and 9 in the new grading scale) and 3 for an A grade (grade 7 in the new grading scale). Points are not awarded for B and C grades (grades 6, 5 and 4 in the new grading scale).
Graduates (i.e. those applicants who have already completed or are in the final year of an undergraduate degree) are automatically given the 36 points.
After your grades have been assessed, QUB assessors then take your UKCAT score and place it into the appropriate band, as shown below:
So, the maximum points you can have is 42. They will read and analyze personal statements too. Evidence of commitment to Dentistry, motivation, communication skills and initiative are important to include in your personal statement. For more advice on how to prepare an amazing Personal Statement – you need to read this in-depth feature blog post.
Then they will interview the best candidates. Interviews run from December to February.
QUB have created a super helpful PDF document that details their admission policy and how they assess all applicants. Click on this link to download the QUB ADMISSION POLICY STATEMENT FOR DENTISTRY to read.
QUB is consistently recognised as one of the best dental schools in the UK. It has a great reputation.
Please remember to never base your decision to choose a dental school based on its ranking, because all UK dental schools are excellent.
In 2017, dentistry at QUB was ranked 1st in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2017). Students at Queen’s are very proud of their dental school and strongly believe it deserves this great ranking.
In more recent rankings, QUB has dropped from the top spot a few places, but this is not an issue at all. According to The Complete University Guide, QUB was ranked 8th for 2019 and was ranked 9th in the UK for 2018.
2019 Ranking (The Complete University Guide):
2018 Ranking (The Complete University Guide):
DENTAL SOCIAL CALENDAR EVENTS
At QUB, we have the BDSA – The Belfast Dental Student’s Association. Here we have a team of 4th years, led by a President and a Vice President, who organise the events for the dental students. On the evening before the 3rd,4th and 5th years return, the BDSA do a night out. It’s a great chance for everyone to have some fun and catch up again after the summer holidays before the clinics start.
Then in October, to welcome the new 1st years, we have our mixer night out in ‘The Parlour Bar’, a bar just beside the main campus. This is always a great way to mix with other year groups #freshers
Also, every year in October, there is the BDSA Sports Day – a chance for the UK dental schools to compete in rounders and hockey and other sports. BDSA here stands for British Dental Students’ Association. The BDSA Sports Day takes place in a different City each year because a different dental school will host this three-day event each year. There’s also a chance to party in the evenings on all three nights.
Then around Halloween time, we will have our Mystery Tour – a bus will leave Belfast and can travel anywhere around Northern Ireland and even into the Republic of Ireland. It’s always great fun.
Then the Christmas night out is usually a pub crawl or a night out in a nightclub. Last year, however, we had our faculty formal a few weeks before Christmas and called it ‘The Winter Ball’.
After Christmas, semester 2 begins with a night out in January. Then the next big weekend away is IDSA – Irish Dental Students’ Association. Here, the dental schools in Cork, Dublin and Belfast meet up for a formal on the Saturday and a night out on the Friday. Each university takes it in turns each year to host this ISDSA weekend.
Then, similar to all other dental schools, the socializing quietens down as exam season approaches as all students will get locked down in ‘revision mode’.
In general, it’s a very sociable and outgoing course at QUB. As a class we often do weekends away or day trips together too. You will have loads of fun over the five years!
Whilst there are no specific sports teams for dental students at QUB, you can join any of the sports teams or societies at QUB to get involved with. However, once a week some of the 1st and 2nd year boys play indoor soccer.
INTERVIEWS FOR QUB DENTISTRY
James will kindly be providing 1-to-1 interview help for any prospective students interested in 2019 entry. James is more than happy to do online sessions, over Skype, or in person (if you live in Belfast or are willing to go and meet with him).
You can contact James directly via email on email@example.com for any more information.
It is important for applicants to have a heads up for interviews at QUB, because the interviewers are not friendly and will just watch and listen to you talk. Don’t expect them to prompt you. They may smile if you say something impressive but don’t bet on it.
QUB uses the MMI format. There are 4 stations with a little break between each station. Each station has 2 interviewers. Each person will ask you 1 question. You have 4 minutes to answer.
To best prepare, familiarise yourself with the GDC guidelines and common ethical scenario interview questions. They want to see a well rounded, confident and resilient student so make sure to sell yourself – they don’t know how great you are until you tell them. If you want more general support with interview preparation, click here to visit the detailed dental school interviews post.
QUB Interviews are designed to test the following:
- Maturity and Responsibility
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Ethical and moral values
- Awareness of the demands of training as a dental surgeon
The scores at the interview are used to create a rank order. Offers are made to the applicants who rank highest after the interview. Should places be available in August, this rank order will also be the primary factor in considering candidates who have satisfied the academic criteria and are not holding an offer with any other Dental School through UCAS.
The Graduation ceremony is on the main QUB campus and then the dental students also get a graduation ball – they get a fancy boat across to The Merchant Hotel where they have their meal and party to celebrate the end of 5 years of hard work.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this feature post helpful and that it has made you excited to apply for QUB. It is a fantastic university with a superb dental school
I’d like to thank James McKenna again for taking the time to collaborate with me and prepare this feature. If you want to know anything else related to Queen’s University Belfast, drop James an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can also follow James on Instagram. He has created a dental IG page where he will be regularly posting updates to share his journey through dental school with everyone.
This is by no means a complete review of Queen’s University Belfast, but it should hopefully help give you a taste for what this great dental school is like.