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Courses forced to close as pay puts students off applying

Newcastle College is the latest in a long line of institutions to close its doors to dental technology trainees. Despite serving the North-east and Scottish Borders, there are too few students to keep the course open.

"We have experienced falling levels of interest in the national diploma for dental technology, and have decided that the programme is no longer financially viable," said director of sixth form David Atyeo, adding that the existing 17 students would be allowed to finish.

Damaged by young people's reluctance to enter a profession with poor pay and conditions, and fears that the Learning and Skills Council will only fund the course for two years rather than three, colleges are struggling to keep courses afloat.

Busy employers are reluctant to release staff for training. At Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham, most students are full-time. Instead of recruiting their own trainees, employers prefer to take college students on work experience and then decide which to employ when they have qualified. Despite demand for good staff in Liverpool, trainees in the city's community college are dropping out because of the pay.

Wales has only one institution for dental technology training. The University of Wales Institute Cardiff has 16 National Certificate and 15 HNCHND students drawn from an area from Bath to West Wales.

Northern Ireland almost lost its provision. Its five students each year now attend the Royal Victoria Hospital and are funded by the Department of Health.

Colleges have to spread themselves academically and geographically. Southampton City College covers an area stretching to Devon and Cornwall.

Manchester Metropolitan University caters for national diploma to PhD students. Lambeth College is the largest FE institution for dental technology with more than 200 students. But to sustain these numbers, its catchment area includes London, Hampshire and the Wash.

Scotland, where some trainees are coming to college at night because their employers will not release them during the day, is also struggling. Prospective national certificate students walk out of their interviews when they realise that the starting rate for a trainee is pound;115.25 a week, rising to pound;264 after four years in training and a further year's experience reports Joe MacIntyre, course leader at Glasgow's Langside College.

Telford College in Edinburgh and Langside College are filling places with foreign students. Langside has two Scottish HNCs and 13 students from China.

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