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Course content

Bristol University Open Learning for Dentists is a very popular modular distance learning programme for students aiming to achieve the Certificate or Diploma in Postgraduate Dental Studies. It provides a unique form of dental postgraduate education, designed for busy dental practitioners.

Students must complete three units (60 credits) from a choice of 11 to achieve the certificate or six units (120 credits) to achieve the diploma. Each unit provides a structured programme that involves reading, study days and assessments.

This method of study is not led by teachers in a classroom but is supported by tutors and administration at a distance, offering the flexibility to suit your personal needs. The units are specially written for the programme and are designed to be interactive, giving you the opportunity to think and learn for yourself. Following successful completion of the diploma, students may carry out a research project and prepare a dissertation to achieve an MSc.

All students applying for Postgraduate Dental Studies will initially be enrolled on to the certificate, and on satisfactory completion will be transferred to the diploma.

Occasional route of study]

The occasional route of study is an option for students who do not want a formal postgraduate qualification but still want to register for individual units. After successful completion of a unit, the student is awarded a transcript confirming that they have attained 20 credits; this could later be used in an application for Recognition of Prior Learning. CPD hours are also awarded. Students who have completed a unit via the occasional route may transfer to the certificate programme, subject to availability of places. The modular fee is the same regardless of the route of study.

Programme structure

The year is divided into three teaching blocks and students may only take one unit per block. Programme material is posted on Blackboard, an online learning environment. There are between one and four elements per unit and they contain assignments to be completed by the student. The units normally available are:
-Anxiety Management
-Conscious Sedation
-Full Denture Prosthetics
-Law and Ethics
-Local Anaesthesia
-Surgical Skills 1 and 2

There are one to two compulsory study days per unit, usually held on Fridays or Saturdays. These cover areas that do not lend themselves well to distance learning, such as hands-on sessions.


The aim of this programme is to inform and enhance the current practice of busy dental practitioners. In future some of the units may be helpful for gaining a contract with the NHS to provide clinical services as a Dentist with Special Interests or Dentists with Extended Services, which may be introduced in England.

Visit the Postgraduate Dental Studies - DPDS/MSc/PGCert page on the University of Bristol website for more details!




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