Clinical placement plans for future optometry students unveiled

Under the profession’s new training requirements, student optometrists will go out into the community earlier than they previously would have done

LM Placement
Pixabay/Paul Diaconu

New partnerships to deliver clinical placements to optometry students have been announced by the College of Optometrists.

In preparation for the revised Master’s degree programmes for student optometrists, which will begin at some universities in September 2023, the College will partner with 12 universities on Clinical Learning in Practice (CLiP) placements.

The first CLiP placements will start in the 2025–26 academic year.

It is hoped that CLiP will facilitate the placement of students for most of their patient-facing experience, delivering an easy to navigate work-based assessment programme.

Employers currently on board to provide placements include Boots Opticians, the Hakim Group, Specsavers, and Vision Express.

Particular attention is being paid to assessment, with remote collaboration between all who are involved in supporting and assessing placement students and clarity on the progress each student has made towards achieving GOC outcomes a key focus.

CLiP will also incorporate training, approval and support for supervisors, and set standards that will quality assure placement settings.

The participating universities are:

  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • Aston University
  • The University of Bradford
  • Cardiff University
  • The University of Central Lancashire
  • City, University of London
  • The University of Hertfordshire
  • The University of Huddersfield
  • The University of Plymouth
  • Teesside University
  • Ulster University
  • The University of the West of England.

Professor Lizzy Ostler, director of education at the College of Optometrists, said that she is “really excited” to have agreed partnerships with the universities.

“We will draw on the UK-wide network of expertise and experience that we have established from delivering the Scheme for Registration to ensure that students feel supported as they progress through this part of their Master’s degree and meet General Optical Council’s (GOC) outcomes,” she said.

Ostler added: “We will continue to deliver the Scheme for Registration to current and future trainees throughout the transition period and will work with the GOC to align the two routes to minimise the impact and gain most benefit for the sector.”

The GOC’s new Education Training Requirements, approved in March 2021, will require optometry students to spend 48 weeks undertaking a clinical placement before they qualify as optometrists.

This means the standard optometry degree will last four years, with the clinical placement integrated rather than taking place afterwards. Students will graduate with a Master’s, rather than an undergraduate, degree.

The changes will effectively put an end to the traditional pre-registration period, as future optometrists will qualify upon graduation.

Some universities will begin their revised optometry programmes in autumn 2023, and others in 2024.

The College will host a webinar outlining more details about CLiP placements on Wednesday 12 July at 6pm.