Higher Education Diploma Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy

We are committed to providing an outstanding educational and clinical experience, which enables our students to achieve their best and become caring, confident dental professionals. We're proud to have achieved 100% overall student satisfaction for five years running.

Course description

The Higher Education Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy is a 27-month full-time course (with an April start date) enabling students to gain professional accreditation as dental hygienists and dental therapists.

We recognise the importance of training the dental team together so you’ll learn alongside dental students in a way that prepares you for practice.

You’ll also benefit from our outreach training programme. It’s one of the most rigorous placement programmes in the UK. Treating patients of all ages and backgrounds in real work environments sharpens your skills and gives you a head start in your career.

Our students find the course provides them with opportunities to explore ideas, apply what they have learnt and to achieve their best. This is reflected in the National Student Survey where we consistently achieve 100 per cent overall student satisfaction.

Our teaching is driven by world-class research so you’ll learn about the new techniques and advances that are rapidly taking place in the field of dentistry. Our research is multidisciplinary with a mix of biomedical, engineering and social scientists working together for the advancement of clinical excellence. You’ll also benefit from first class facilities, including our new virtual simulation suite where you can practice dentistry in a virtual reality environment.


At the beginning of the first year you’ll develop your understanding of the anatomy and physiology relevant to dentistry. You’ll also be introduced to a range of study skills to help you thrive at University.

After the first month you’ll begin clinical skills training so you can treat patients. You’ll be introduced to the concept of putting patients’ needs first, as well as careful and thorough instrumentation. Alongside this you’ll visit and assist on clinics to help build your confidence and communication skills in a clinical environment – we place great emphasis on helping you become a caring, competent and confident member of the dental team.

Throughout the first year you’ll also develop your knowledge and understanding in other subject areas including law, ethics and professionalism, health promotion and education and oral disease. Our course is very dynamic and within no time you’ll be treating patients under close supervision in the Dental Hospital.


Virtual reality operative dentistry

During your first year you'll benefit from our simulation suite, where you can practise dentistry in a virtual reality environment. This state of the art, innovative technology provides real-life visual, auditory and tactile sensory feedback and will enable you to learn, develop and improve your operative dentistry skills. This fun learning and teaching opportunity is a unique feature of our programme and complements the ‘traditional’ training you will undertake in the clinical skills learning environment on ‘phantom heads’.

Integrated learning and teaching

At Sheffield we recognise the importance of training the dental team together. During your first year you’ll complete some of your clinical skills training alongside our dentistry students. You’ll also attend a series of integrated lectures. This integrated teaching approach will help prepare you better for practice.


Currently our first year learning and teaching is divided up into the following themes:

  • Study Skills and Personal Development
  • Dental Foundation
  • The Human Body in Health and Disease
  • Law, Ethics and Professionalism
  • Pre-Clinical Skills I
  • Health Promotion and Education I
  • Clinical Practice
  • Oral Disease I
  • Pre-Clinical Skills II
  • Pre-Clinical Skills III
  • Health Promotion and Education II
  • Dental Radiology

The second year is mainly clinical – you’ll be treating your own patients and will be expected to show a commitment to compassionate, high-quality care. You will also rotate around many different specialist departments within the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, helping to broaden your clinical experience.

There will be the opportunity to attend Sheffield Children’s Hospital to assist with oral surgery and you’ll visit care homes to train staff in oral health care. You’ll also benefit from clinical experience in the School’s Dental Practice Unit. In addition you’ll further your knowledge and understanding in important areas of dentistry.


Oral health promotion project

During your second year you will work towards an oral health promotion project. Oral health promotion is one of the roles pivotal to all dental personnel and this project will give you the opportunity to plan and deliver your very own scheme to promote oral health for a targeted group of people. This is an exciting opportunity to make a real impact, with previous schemes launched in primary schools and residential care homes.

Outreach training

During the second year you will spend part of your time working as a team in a range of primary care settings currently in Yorkshire and the East Midlands. We use carefully selected placements in community dental services and general dental practices. Our pioneering outreach training programme provides a real working environment to encourage your professional development. It will give you an exciting opportunity to see and treat a variety of patients and maximise your clinical and communication skills.

Typically you will work in three placements, two days a week, each for around two months. Usually these will be in contrasting settings. As a working member of a dental team you will learn from the inside how the services operate and gradually build confidence and speed of working in your new role. Transferring skills learned in the Dental Hospital to new working environments should ease your move into employment upon qualification.

Many students find this outreach training a challenging but rewarding and reassuring part of the course. It’s one of the most rigorous placement programmes in the UK, giving you a head start in your career.


Currently our second year learning and teaching is divided up into the following themes:

  • Clinical Practice
  • Dental Radiology
  • Health Promotion and Education III
  • Outreach
  • Oral Disease II
  • Principles of Practice

The third year consists of one term only.

By the time you reach the third year and the last few months of the course, you will have acquired a vast range of knowledge, skills and experience. Our principles of practice theme will inform you of the important issues you will confront in the workplace and help ensure you begin your career as a well-rounded professional.


Near peer teaching

During the third year, you will have the opportunity to apply for the innovative near peer teaching scheme. If your application is successful, you’ll take on the role of clinical tutor, teaching our junior students as part of their pre-clinical skills training. It will enable you to develop expertise in teaching, give you an insight into the clinical teaching profession and consolidate your previous learning. Many students have found this scheme very rewarding and enjoyable.


Currently, our third year learning and teaching is a continuation of our second year themes.


Dynamic teaching and learning methods are employed which are broadly divided into lectures, clinical skills learning environment work, clinical sessions and tutorials. A strong emphasis is also placed on directed self-learning. Current accepted practices are taught and you’ll learn about the new techniques and advances that are rapidly taking place in the field of dentistry.

We are committed to ensuring our students have the best learning experience. This is reflected in our National Student Survey results, where we consistently achieve 100% overall student satisfaction.


Throughout the course, you will be assessed by a variety of methods including written and practical examinations, assignments and an extensive project. As part of your final examination you will present a patient for whom you have provided an extensive range of treatments.

You’ll also have to demonstrate you clinical competence in a range of key clinical skills expected of a qualified dental hygienist and dental therapist. Through our broad range of assessment methods you will develop a wide collection of transferable skills.

Learning and assessment figures

These figures give an indication of how you'll learn and be assessed. They're a combined average of all the years of the course. The learning and assessment percentages could vary depending on the modules you choose.

Scheduled teaching 16%
Independent study 30%
Placement 55%
Exams/tests 45%
Coursework 32%
Practical 24%


27 months full-time.

Entry requirements

These are the minimum requirements that must be met by the deadline for receipt of applications. Pending qualifications, due after the deadline for receipt of applications, will not be taken into consideration.

  • 5 GCSE at grade C / grade 4 to include Mathematics, English Language and Science.

Plus one of the following options:

  • Level 3/4 Dental Nurse Qualification plus 1 A Level in a relevant Science subject (preferably Biology) at grade C.

Post-qualification certificates in Dental Nursing can strengthen an application but cannot be used to meet the minimum requirements.

  • Level 5/6 Dental Nurse Qualification.

  • 2 A Levels to include one in a relevant Science subject (preferably Biology) at grade CC.

  • Access to Higher Education Diploma (60 credits with 45 at Level 3 at grade Merit) including 36 Level 3 credits in relevant Science units (preferably Biology) at grade Merit. 

An Access to Higher Education Diploma can also be used in lieu of two GCSEs, however you must still have GSCE grade C / level 4 in Mathematics, English Language and Science.

  • BTEC National Diploma at grade MM including 90 credits or 540 GLH of relevant Science subjects (preferably Biology) at grade Merit.

  • 2:2 degree in a relevant scientific subject.

We will consider other national and international qualifications on an individual basis. If your qualifications aren’t listed here, please contact us to discuss your application.

Applicants with international qualifications are also encouraged to submit a certificate of comparability from UK NARIC with their application form.

Proof of all qualifications will be required.

Clinical requirements

Our School also has a series of clinical requirements for clinical students. Before accepting an offer of a place, you must confirm you will comply these requirements.

Personal qualities and experience

You must possess a high level of manual dexterity and demonstrate attention to detail. You must also demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, and have the ability to work as a team, think logically and respond positively to feedback. You must have a genuine interest in the care and treatment of patients, be empathetic and act without discrimination.

You are strongly advised to spend some time observing dental care professionals to ensure you have a good understanding of the profession.

The School offers a free online course via Future Learn which explores the impact dentistry has on our lives. You may find it useful to complete our discover dentistry course before you apply.

We also seek to select dental students with values and behaviours which align with the values of the NHS Constitution.

These are:

  • Working together for patients
  • Commitment to quality of care
  • Improving lives
  • Respect and dignity
  • Compassion
  • Everyone counts

 The NHS core values form part of the NHS constitution. You are advised to take a look at the NHS constitution before you apply.

English language requirements

If your first language isn’t English, you may need to take a language test – for example, IELTS 7.0 with 6.5 in each component (the test should have been completed no more than two years before the start date of our course).

Fees and funding

In common with other UK universities, the University of Sheffield charges different fees dependent on whether students are classed as Home or Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

It is your responsibility to clarify your fee status during the application process and indicate this on your application. The Admissions Service will subsequently undertake a fee status assessment once you have been offered a place.

Home and EU students

Home and EU students starting a Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy course in April 2020 will be able to access the undergraduate financial support package from the Student Loans Company.

The fee charged will be in line with the standard undergraduate fee. For academic year 2019-20 this will be £9,250, and may increase with inflation each year. The final year of the course runs from April to July and fees are reduced to 25% of the maximum (based on the 2019-20 fee this would equate to £2,312).

Eligible Home and EU students will be able to apply for a Tuition Fee Loan to cover the full cost of the fees for each year of the course. Information about these loans and their repayment can be found on our central funding web pages.

Home students can also access support for their maintenance costs and additional needs. The amount of support available and the eligibility criteria varies depending on where students live.

Further information about the maintenance loans and their eligibility criteria can found via the links below:

Bursaries and scholarships

Students eligible for maintenance support from their funding body may also be eligible to receive additional support from the University of Sheffield Bursary Scheme. The amount you receive in the final year will be prorated. 

Due to the start date of this course students will be able to apply for a limited number of University scholarships. If you receive an offer the University will email you to invite you to apply for the scholarships you are eligible for. Information on the central funding pages referring to scholarships should be disregarded.

Eligible students may also apply to the Learning Support Fund (LSF), administered by the NHS Business and Services Authority. Further information about the LSF can be found on their website. Please note that students from the EU can not apply to the LSF.

Overseas students

The fee for overseas students starting in April 2020 is £35,880 per year for years 1 and 2. The final year of the course runs from April to July and the fees are reduced to £8,970.

Apply now

To apply for a place on our Higher Education Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Therapy course, you'll need to complete and submit an online application for Alternative Routes and Programmes at the University of Sheffield. Applications are not made through UCAS.

Our next intake is scheduled to take place in April 2021. Unfortunately, we cannot confirm this start date at the moment and so are unable to open applications at this present time. Please keep checking this web page for up-to-date information on our next intake and the application process. If you would like to receive email updates on the next intake, including notification of applications opening, please fill out this google form.

It is in your best interests to submit your application as early as possible. This will enable us to clarify any details necessary to assess your application fully.

Please read the following sections carefully to find out more about the application process.

Step 1: Apply online

Before you fill out our online application you are advised to read the following guidance. If you don’t read this guidance, you may jeopardise the success of your application.

You should only submit an application if you will meet the minimum entry requirements by the deadline for receipt of applications. Pending qualifications, due after the deadline for receipt of applications, will not be taken into consideration. Your application will be automatically rejected if you don’t meet the minimum entry requirements by the deadline for receipt of applications.

Create an application account

You’ll need to set up an application account online. You'll need an email address in order to do this.

You'll have the option to save and return to your online application as many times as you like. Once you’ve filled in all the mandatory sections you’ll be able to submit your application.

Qualification information

It is very important you include details on the following, in the relevant sections of our online form:

  • Your secondary/further education qualifications (including all GCSEs, A Levels, Dental Nurse Qualifications etc.)
  • Your English language qualifications
  • Your University education qualifications (if applicable)

Submitting your application

You'll be unable to edit most of your application once you have submitted it, so please make sure you check it carefully beforehand. You will, however, be able to add documents which you have indicated you will provide later, and add new qualifications.

Your application will be individually assessed by experienced admissions staff who have been appropriately trained and can exercise discretion in interpreting the range of evidence you provide. In assessing your application, we'll consider your qualifications, supporting statements and referee’s statement(s). We also take account of other available information, such as participation in one of our outreach schemes, to ensure we have as complete a picture as possible.

Our assessment methods are fair, valid, and applied consistently.

We don't normally need you to upload GCSE or A Level certificates at this stage. We also don't need to see unaccredited certificates for training as we do not accept these.

If you're shortlisted for our selection day, you'll need to show us the original paper copies of your qualifications documents. This includes GSCE and A Level certificates.

Supplying your supporting documents

You can attach supporting documents to your online application, either when you apply or by logging back into the form using your email address and password.

You can log into your application at any time and add additional documents, even after it has been submitted.

If you have any problems attaching documents to your online application, please email study@sheffield.ac.uk.

What if my documents aren't ready?

You can tell us via your online application that you want to provide your documents later.

Uploading documents at a later date

You can upload documents after you've submitted your application simply by logging back in to your online application.

It's your responsibility to make sure you do this by the deadline for applications. It's unlikely a decision can be made on your application without all of the relevant supporting documentation. If we don't receive any required supporting documentation within two weeks of the published application deadline, your application will be unsuccessful.


We require one reference to support your application.

This should be supplied by teaching staff where you've previously studied. If you've been out of education for the last two years, you can send a reference from your current employer.

In their reference, your referee should provide their personal opinion of your ability and suitability to undertake this programme of study. In particular your previous academic and/or clinical achievements, particularly in comparison to those of your peers, and any distinct strengths and weaknesses (for example motivation, commitment, independence, resilience, professionalism). If your first language isn't English, your referee should also include their opinion of your proficiency in written and spoken English.

You can upload your reference directly to your online application. Alternatively you can ask your referee to upload your reference themselves via our Referee Portal.

There's no official reference form, but please make sure your name and the title of the course you've applied for are included on any documents that we're sent. We'd also expect references to be on official letterheaded paper.

If we don't receive a suitable reference within two weeks of the published application deadline, your application will be unsuccessful.

Supporting statements

You'll be asked to answer four specific questions which will form your supporting statements. Each statement should be between 150 and 200 words long. You need to spend some time working on the content and structure of your answers

This is your chance to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the profession and your potential to thrive in a professional health care environment. Your answers should be personal to you and provide us with more details about your experiences and interests. They could be the difference between being invited to a selection day or not. Particular attention should be paid to your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Attention to detail will be taken into consideration when assessing your application.

Criminal convictions

Any offer of a place is subject to receipt of a satisfactory enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Details of the procedure for obtaining a DBS check will be given to you at the appropriate time. You must tell us about any criminal convictions, including any ongoing investigations, spent convictions, cautions, verbal cautions or bind-over orders. If you have a conviction you must tick the ‘Yes’ box. We will then contact you for more information. The information you provide will be carefully considered and treated in strict confidence. If you are convicted of a criminal offence after you have applied, you must inform us straight away.

Find out more about our Disclosure and Barring Service policy

We need this information to check you meet the minimum entry requirements.

Without this information, we may be unable to process your application. If we don't receive this information by the deadline for applications, your application could be automatically rejected.

Supporting documents

When you apply, you may need to upload qualification documents relevant for your application. Typically, we'll require the following qualification documents in order to process your application:

  • Certificates for Dental Nurse Qualifications 
  • Transcripts for BTECs, Access to Higher Education Courses, University Certificates/Diplomas/Degrees
  • Translated transcripts for International qualifications plus ideally NARIC certificates of comparability
  • English Language certificates for EU and International applicants
Step 2: Attend our selection day

If your application is short listed, you’ll be invited to attend a selection day.

During the selection day you will have a structured interview and take part in an interpersonal skills test.

Your interview will be conducted by two members of staff and will last approximately 15 minutes. All applicants will be asked the same questions.

The questions may cover:

  • motivation for the course
  • motivation for the profession and knowledge of current issues
  • evidence of independent thought
  • evidence of ability to apply knowledge
  • relevant experience, commitment and values

After your interview, you will undergo an interpersonal skills test. This will involve a group task.

During our selection day you will also have the opportunity to find out more about the innovative aspects of our course, tour the School and its first class facilities, and meet some of our current students. Further information will be provided nearer the time.

When all applicants have attended a selection day, a selection panel will meet to discuss every application in detail. The selection panel will take into account the observations made from the structured interview and the interpersonal skills test. The selection panel may also refer back to your personal statements and qualifications.

Our assessment methods are fair, valid, and applied consistently.

Step 3: Receive an offer

Once you have a attended our selection day we will work quickly to let you know if your application has been successful. We will write to you with details of an offer.

All offers are initially conditional and include the receipt of a satisfactory enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check and health clearance. Academic conditions may also be applied to your offer.

Once you have accepted our offer of a place we will be in touch with details on how to prepare for the start of our course. There will also be the opportunity to get to know your new classmates via our private Facebook group and attend an applicant open day.


Our graduates can register with the General Dental Council and work in dentistry as dental hygienists and dental therapists. Career opportunities exist in local NHS and private dental practices, hospital services, community dental services and the Ministry of Defence.

Others go on to research and teaching roles within universities or hospital trusts. There are also opportunities within multinational organisations which specialise in healthcare and pharmaceutical products. You may even consider 'topping up' your qualification to a degree, studying for a postgraduate qualification, or studying to become a dentist.  

     Statistics about this course


    We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in your home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.

    Clinical training takes place in the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital. As part of your outreach training, you will need to travel to placements currently across Yorkshire and Derbyshire. You’ll have to pay for your travel costs. You may be able to claim for any additional travel costs you incur during your outreach training through the NHS Learning and Support Fund.

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Information last updated: 20 May 2020

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