More than 800 BDS seats remain vacant in the State this year, and academics are worried
Professional courses may not have lost flavour completely with the students, but some streams are fighting tooth and nail for survival. With more than 800 dental seats remaining vacant in Karnataka at the end of the counselling for entrance into Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS) this year, academicians point out that this situation is a cause of concern and reflects a disparity in the demand and supply for dental seats.
At the end of the counselling conducted by the Karnataka Examinations Authority after taking up the Common Entrance Test, 259 dental seats were remaining. A major chunk of the seats under the Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (COMED-K) — to the extent of 73 per cent — were left vacant as there were no takers for 550 out of the total 748 dental seats.
A.S. Srikanth, Chief Executive, COMED-K, pointed out that there is a gap between demand and supply this year. He also said that there was a need for the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) to look into the issue.
After assessing the number of vacant dental seats over the past five years in the State, Jayakar Shetty M., Executive Committee member of the Dental Council of India (DCI), said that the Council instructed the State Government and the Universities to stop giving permission for the establishment of new dental colleges.
Academicians point out that several private dental colleges have been set up in the State, which has resulted in this situation. B. Suresh, Vice-Chancellor of JSS University, said, “Earlier there were a large number of students coming from other States to pursue BDS in Karnataka. Now dental colleges have been set up in other States, so students do not come here to study.”
However, he maintained that the vacant seats in the State do not indicate that students are moving away from the profession. “I would say that there is a reverse curve in the healthcare sector and more people are taking up the health courses. All top colleges have no seats remaining vacant.”
Professors and students said that this situation should act as a wake-up call to the government and private dental colleges to take up measures to give this sector a boost. A dental professor, on the condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that colleges lose out on money if the seats are not filled and that that if the trend continues the infrastructure of the colleges may decline.
Explaining the reasons for the scarce demand for dental seats at the bachelor’s level, M.V. Ramachandra Prasad, Associate Professor, Government Dental College and Research Institute, said, “A BDS degree is not enough and students have to pursue a PG degree to get good job offers.”
After completing the BDS degree, students have an option of taking up a job at a private clinic or pursuing their master’s. In the 43 private and government dental colleges in Karnataka, around 3,200 BDS seats are available, but at the postgraduate level less than 950 seats are available. For instance, the Government Dental College and Research Institute, Bangalore, has 60 seats for BDS but only 22 for the PG course.
Students said that the job prospects after completing BDS were bleak and the salaries, extremely low. In private clinics, the current market rate for freshers ranges between Rs.5,000 and Rs 10,000. Smitha G., a postgraduate dental student, said that graduates had the option of starting their own clinic or pursue higher studies. She also said that the course, apart from being expensive, also requires a student to invest in expensive instruments.
Kaushik Patnaik, a postgraduate student in the Government Dental College and Research Institute, said that the dental field was in a “sorry” state.
He also said that several colleges do not have good infrastructure. He pointed out that while colleges in bigger cities had most of their seats filled, the huge number of vacant seats were in colleges in smaller towns.
While some professors point out that there is a shortage of dentists in the State, some other professors argue that the dentists are not spread across the State.
An Associate Professor of a reputed dental college pointed out that the number of dentists in urban areas has reached the saturation point. Not many dentists are willing to go to the rural areas as the amenities are not adequate. He suggested that providing incentives for dentists to work in the rural areas and increasing the job opportunities will help in giving the field a boost. Apart from that, increasing awareness about oral hygiene in rural areas and making oral health a part of primary healthcare could increase the demand for dentists in rural areas.
Mr. Suresh said that increasing awareness about the career options and ensuring the quality of the institutes would help. “The Dental Council of India also needs to restrict the number of colleges and ensure that quality is delivered,” he added.
Mr. Prasad mentioned that increasing the PG seats will go a long way in attracting students to pursue dental courses at the undergraduate level. Apart from that he emphasised on the need for the government to hire dentists regularly.
Smitha G. said that reworking the course and reducing its duration by one year may help in attracting more students.