A minute with...Professor Crichton Lang

The University of the Highlands and Islands answers OT ’s questions about its plans to introduce a new optometry course

Eye exam

What stage is the proposal for a new optometry course at currently with the General Optical Council (GOC)?

We have met with the GOC and submitted papers confirming our intent to bring a full application forward.

You will work with FODO on the introduction of the course. How did the partnership come about?

We were approached by local members of the optometry profession who felt that there was a need for another optometry course in Northern Scotland and following discussions there has been wider and ongoing communication and consultation with FODO.

What role will FODO take going forward?

We are at the very early stages of considering possible delivery models so this is still to be established. We will work closely with industry partners to shape our proposals and subsequent development work.

When do you hope to start student enrolment?

We are hoping to offer the degree from 2019, but this is subject to approval and accreditation.

Are you looking at introducing a three or four year course?

A four year honours degree course as standard within the Scottish framework.

What would the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) anticipate the student intake for the course to be?

The programme must be sustainable and graduates need to be able to gain employment. We will use market intelligence research to ensure the course meets the needs of the industry in terms of workforce.

What other characteristics will mark out the UHI course for students when compared to those being offered by other universities?

The degree will feature extensive placement of learners in industry-based practice learning environments across the Highlands and Islands region (and hopefully other areas of Northern Scotland). We will also seek to maximise the amount of time students spend on placement. Due to the distributed nature of our university partnership, we have a wealth of experience in using a range of teaching approaches and technology to support students during periods away from main learning sites.

Have you appointed a course leader in post yet?

A member of professional staff has been seconded to lead our proposals and a full teaching team will be appointed as we move forward, including a dedicated programme leader.

And when will you begin recruiting lecturers?

We are in discussions with the GOC about staffing requirements and are looking to develop our team from 2018.

The sector has raised issues about the number of students creating an oversupply in the market. How does the UHI respond to that concern?

Our course will have a particular focus on addressing challenges employers face in recruiting and retaining staff across Northern Scotland.

How does UHI expect entry requirements to differ, if at all, to Glasgow Caledonian University?

It is too early to give a definitive answer on this, but the quality, standards and rigour of the course will be equivalent as will the standard of learners offered entry. We are however, a widening access institution and will make full use of recognition of prior learning within our admissions processes.

Does UHI have research ambitions or is it only facilitating an undergraduate programme?

As a university, we are also engaged with other regional stakeholders in developments related to specialist elective care facilities, applied health research and research and development initiatives. Sustainable primary care and distributed models to support this and links with elective care are key points of reference for this work. This includes optometry and we expect linkages and synergies to develop between education and the other areas of research and related development noted above.