Tuesday 12 December 2023 – ​ Flemish Education minister Ben Weyts has visited the renovated phantom lab at the University Dental Centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (UTC VUB). Alongside the existing programmes at UGent and KU Leuven, Weyts is aiming for a third dental school to scale up capacity and train more dentists. The renowned competence centre at VUB is already a great asset for the university and an opportunity for Flanders to establish extra dental training capacity.

Flanders has historically struggled with a shortage of doctors and dentists, and the region’s healthcare needs are only going to grow. The Flemish government has therefore allowed many more students to study medicine and dentistry in recent years. At the beginning of the government’s term, 147 students were able to begin studying dentistry, while from next academic year, the number will be more than 250, an increase of more than 70%.

The capacity of the two existing dentistry programmes at KU Leuven and UGent are reaching their limits. Ben Weyts hopes to establish a third dentistry school and thus structurally and thoroughly train more future dentists.

Ben Weyts bezoekt Tandheelkunde VUB

“We really need extra dentists,” says Weyts. “This need is felt in the whole of Flanders. Particularly in Flemish Brabant, there has long been a need for Dutch-speaking dentists. A further programme in the province would really help.”

In that context, he visited the VUB phantom lab, which has recently been fully renovated. The renowned competence centre, fitted out with new dentistry applications, is already a great asset for VUB and an opportunity to create a further dentistry school. Many dentists are further honing their skills after their training through postgraduate courses at the centre.

“The old phantom lab has been sustainably renovated to become a modern training centre, which meets the needs of a contemporary dental training facility with the focus on postgraduate training, live streaming and simulation training,” says Inge Cornillie, general manager of the UTC VUB. “We can proudly say that the lab now fully meets the current requirements for training.”

How many future dentists will VUB be able to train?

“For the Dentistry course, VUB has capacity for 18 to 36 students per training year,” says Dirk Devroey, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy. “Additionally, in cooperation with the UZ Brussel university hospital, including peripheral training places, we have the possibility of accommodating 50 extra students a year without sacrificing teaching quality. This means there is scope in the region to increase the intake of dental and medical students to better meet the healthcare needs of society. This is particularly necessary, to continue to ensure there is Dutch-speaking healthcare available in Brussels and the periphery.”

“We were also asking for this at the UZ Brussel,” says CEO of UZ Brussel Professor Marc Noppen. “The dentists at the University Dental Centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel work closely with a number of departments in our hospital, such as Oral and Maxillofacial, ENT and the Sleep Lab. We also have additional training capacity for the Master of Specialist Medicine within UZ Brussel and our peripheral network.”

“As an urban engaged university, VUB wants to fulfil its social responsibility to train more much-needed dentists. With the UZ Brussel and other partners, we are exploring the possibility of re-establishing a dental school at our Jette campus, thus contributing to training the dentists of the future,” says VUB rector Jan Danckaert.


Virtual Labs

Lecturers and students also gave Ben Weyts an insight into Virtual Labs, a joint project by VUB and Erasmushogeschool Brussel in the context of the Flemish government’s pandemic recovery fund. Through the programme, students prepare in a virtual learning environment, allowing them to be more thoroughly prepared when they begin work. It offers students support both in the lab and in processing their results. More than 1,000 students across four faculties at VUB are taking part.

About the phantom lab

The phantom lab at the UTC VUB is a renovated competence centre that serves as a learning space for postgraduate training in dentistry. The lab, equipped with 18 dental treatment units, offers an organised and secure environment where students can turn their theoretical training into practical skills.