An increasing number of university departments are considering offering Masters in Optometry (MOptom) as a registrable degree. Some universities are likely to aim these courses at the highest-achieving students. While others, like Hertfordshire University, intend their entire BSC Optometry cohort to qualify through this route, and other universities may follow. We support universities that want to add value for students. However, we believe that a Masters degree in Optometry should offer a higher standard of achievement and experience in comparison to a Bachelors degree with an OSCE pass.
Currently, Manchester University offer a very small number of their top performing BSc Optometry undergraduates the opportunity to move on to their MOptom course, which provides a registrable degree. Pre-registration placements are arranged in a variety of settings to give students experience across the profession.
Hertfordshire’s course started in September 2015 and provides all of their graduates an MOptom. They have an exclusive arrangement with Boots Opticians who offer pre-registration placements for the entire cohort, in association with the College of Optometrists’ Scheme for Registration.
What’s the incentive for change?
The incentive to offer a registrable degree over four years instead of three is clear. A university would receive an extra year of tuition fee per student for the extra year of pre-reg even though the actual pre-reg positions may be spread over the last couple of years of the course. The degree would be more marketable, it would be more attractive to students because a clinical placement is arranged for the them and university support would be available to until the point of full registration.
For a university looking to find placements for a large cohort, a single contract with a single pre-reg provider is beneficial in terms of resource and finance. Sourcing placements across a wide range of providers and settings is resource intensive - it may involve finding accommodation for short periods of time across the country, and contacting hundreds of practices, hospitals and clinics to seek placements for students.
Universities must ensure that any contract with single providers of pre-registration placements do not place students’ learning and qualification at risk should the provider withdraw from the contract.
How to add value to MOptom
We urge universities to continue to provide added value for students undertaking the qualification. One way to add value is by arranging pre-registration placements across the profession and time spent in different types of practice, like hospital, independent and multiple. This will result in a more rounded pre-reg experience.
We also support universities that include content in the curriculum that assists and encourages students to achieve further qualifications post-graduation. Some of the modules from higher qualifications, the Independent Prescribing (IP) qualification as an example, could be included in the MOptom course to give graduates an advantage through credits, as well as an incentive to go on to achieve higher status post-graduation.
Ensuring a better student experience
Our interest is in ensuring that the student experience is better and both new and existing courses assist in the development of the profession. Any project that helps to increase the numbers of optometrists with higher qualifications is welcome. We need to be able to offer the NHS solutions at scale.
We would be disappointed if universities offering MOptom arranged pre-reg placements for their students exclusively with one company or one sector of the profession. We believe that universities offering the course should ensure that it signifies a higher level of achievement and experience to graduates than those who have achieved the Bachelors degree and OSCEs.
Read the rest of the AOP position statements.