The University of Portsmouth launched its four-year, full-integrated Masters in Optometry programme in 2016, welcoming 16 students in the first year.
As a Masters course, “it follows a slightly different approach to the traditional approaches, in that it is a fully-integrated Masters programme,” optometrist and senior lecturer on the programme, Malcolm Maciver told OT. “Our course incorporates the pre-reg within our training programme,” he added.
Mr Maciver explained that a student on the programme for the first two years of their degree will train in a very similar manner to a student at any other university that offers optometry. However, half way through the third year, students on the Portsmouth programme will go out into the local community for their pre-reg placements that are provided by the university.
Discussing the reasons for why the course was developed this way, Mr Maciver shared: “Many students at the moment have difficulty with the pre-reg, and where the traditional pre-reg used to be a one year programme, it’s now being extended with many students taking 18 months or so. Therefore, what we aim to do as a university is to provide support to our students throughout that pre-reg placement.”
He added: “They have a day a week dedicated where they can come back to the university, so that if there are any areas that they are struggling with they can come back to university and we can provide support for them during that pre-reg placement.”
Once completed, students return to the university to undertake a small research project or literature review, completing the programme with a Masters in Optometry degree. “At which point they can undertake work in practice,” Mr Maciver confirmed.
In the future
Capped at 16 students for first two intakes, Mr Maciver is positive about that growing in the future. “Pending some requirements, we aim to increase that going forward. Our aims is to not have a course that is dramatically over 50 students or so,” he said.
The shortage of optometrists in the south east of England has been highlighted in recent years. Responding to this view, the optometrist told OT that the establishment of the course was “the University of Portsmouth reacting to a requirement in the local area.”
Expanding on this, he said: “Part of the difficulty with graduates in optometry coming out at the moment is that they graduate and then tend to stay in the local area. Therefore, you tend to find that the areas around institutions have a large percentage of optometrists, but when you move a reasonable distance away from these institutions, it becomes more difficult to recruit optometrists. In response to demand from local practitioners, the university developed this programme.”