Higher surgical training in the UK faces a cut of two years. We conducted a questionnaire survey to assess the operative experience of current higher surgical trainees in otological surgery and the likely effect of the proposed reduction from six to four years. 91 (65%) of the 142 higher surgical trainees responded with details of major otological procedures performed (independently or assisting) over one year. In the present six-year scheme a typical trainee performs 72 myringoplasties, 79 mastoidectomies, 7 skull base procedures and 28 other procedures. In the first four years, however, his or her experience is only 39 myringoplasties, 44 mastoidectomies, 4 skull base procedures and 7 others. The large shortfall in experience that might result from shortening of the training programme would need to be met by intensification of the training or institution of accredited otology fellowships. Very similar dilemmas are faced by other surgical specialties.