UCLan to launch new optometry course in September

Academic lead for vision sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire, Rupal Lovell-Patel, tells OT  about the new Integrated Master’s in Optometry programme

UCLan building
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has received approval from the General Optical Council (GOC) to launch an Integrated Master’s in Optometry course.

In September, students will enrol on the MSci in optometry – an integrated two-year BSc in ophthalmic dispensing with the option to complete an additional three years, which combines the College of Optometrists’ Scheme for Registration with a Master’s research project module.

Speaking to OT about the decision to launch an MSci in optometry, academic lead for vision sciences in the School of Medicine at UCLan, Rupal Lovell-Patel, explained that the university has received interest from dispensing opticians who want to have a career progression path into optometry.

“Previously, they have had two options: one is to do the fast-track career progression, which is a 48-week full time course, or they do the full BSc optometry degree,” she said, adding: “Looking at the two courses, we thought that there were some areas where teaching could be combined.”

The Master’s provides a new route into optometry for optical professionals who might have family commitments or an existing optical qualification.

Ms Lovell-Patel told OT: “This course is a combined dispensing optometry qualification with blended learning. People can carry on working, study online and come into the university for a week each month to gain practical and clinical skills. It gives optical assistants or dispensing opticians a chance to access any career progression they want.”

To be accepted on to the course, students must have worked in an optometry practice for at least a year and have consent from their employer.

Speaking about the course content, Ms Lovell-Patel explained: “Students will concentrate on everything that a BSc in optometry offers, but it will be at a higher level. They will be applying clinical knowledge and using evidence-based practice to develop decision-making in an optometry setting.”

An on-campus eye clinic will provide students with the opportunity to see real patients while meeting clinical patient episodes and the GOC competencies required.

“There will be a lot of hands-on work at the university in addition to their experiences from an optical practice,” Ms Lovell-Patel said, adding: “In the university clinic, we will have visiting clinicians. At their employer’s practice, they will have a mentor who will support their learning, helping them to embed their knowledge into real world situations.”

The online aspect of the course is designed to offer a flexible way of learning for students in order to provide a solution to a common problem in UK optometry.

Ms Lovell-Patel told OT: “In certain parts of the country, the industry is struggling to get optometrists to move.”

“This course is a chance to offer practices where they are struggling to recruit to grow their own talent and keep it local. For that reason, we’re flexible in how we deliver the content. We wanted to attract students from different parts of the country, but not necessarily have them here all the time,” Ms Lovell-Patel highlighted.