The University has been given degree-awarding powers by the General Optical Council
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is celebrating after its masters optometry course has been granted degree-awarding powers by the General Optical Council (GOC).
The landmark decision means the University’s first students in optometry will now be able to graduate from UCLan this summer.
Rupal Lovell-Patel, UCLan’s Academic Lead for Vision Sciences at the School of Medicine, said: “It’s fantastic news to receive this accreditation from the regulator for optical professions in the UK. This is the culmination of years of hard work from colleagues in the School and I’m delighted for everybody involved.
“Our optometry courses are going from strength to strength, and we look forward to seeing our first graduates don their UCLan academics caps and gown in July.”
The rigorous GOC assessment included regular reviews of the course portfolio, meetings with staff and students and a quality assurance visit from the Education Visitor Panel.
The Integrated Masters in Optometry (MSci Optometry) was the first of its kind to incorporate online and classroom teaching with practical work-based experience. The integrated eye health and vision science programme, which takes five years to complete, focuses on the development of expertise in a range of areas including ophthalmic dispensing, standards of practice, management of vision and eye abnormalities and leadership.
"This is the culmination of years of hard work from colleagues in the School and I’m delighted for everybody involved"— Rupal Lovell-Patel, UCLan’s Academic Lead for Vision Sciences at the School of Medicine
In 2020, the MSci Optometry was split into the undergraduate BSc (Hons) Ophthalmic Dispensing course and the renamed MSc Optometry, which continued to teach the masters’ level academic programme. The MSc Optometry, which takes approximately three years to complete, is a fast-track programme for students who are already qualified dispensing opticians. Students on this course carry out eye examinations, under direct supervision, on UCLan staff and members of the public in the University’s purpose-built Eye Health Clinic.
Set up similarly to a high street optical practice, the UCLan Eye Clinic is based on the Preston Campus and works closely with Royal Preston Hospital eye department. It boasts an extensive suite of state-of-the-art computerised equipment, including Optical Coherence Tomography scanners, which enables the eye to be examined in greater detail, and retinal photography.
The courses incorporate the Scheme for Registration, delivered by the College of Optometrists, within the final academic modules.
The optometry courses were developed by UCLan in response to the demand for the services of optometrists and dispensing opticians, which is set to increase as a result of the ageing population. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, sight loss in the UK is set to double from two million to over four million people by 2050.
"We are pleased to grant full approval to the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) MSci Optometry, until all cohorts have completed the programme, and MSc Optometry programmes"— Samara Morgan, GOC Head of Education
Samara Morgan, GOC Head of Education, said: “We are pleased to grant full approval to the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) MSci Optometry, until all cohorts have completed the programme, and MSc Optometry programmes. UCLan’s optometry programmes have been quality assured prior to the first cohort of students joining the programme as set out in our Temporary Accreditation and Quality Assurance Handbook: Routes to GOC Registration for Optometrists (2020), with the most recent approval quality assurance visit taking place in January 2022.
“Upon completion of these optometry programmes, UCLan students can directly apply for registration with the GOC. We would like to congratulate the team at UCLan on this achievement.”
The first student to complete the MSci Optometry course is Katie Vickers, an optometrist at Specsavers Opticians. The 26-year-old, from Benfleet in Essex, said: “I feel proud that I have completed the course, but more so for the fact that I am in the first cohort to complete this course. I wouldn't be in the position I am in without the help of all my course mates, so I want to also thank them for all the amazing teamwork we put in to get us through the course.
“The course length was a positive for me because it allowed me to continue working three weeks a month and allowed me to have my normal home life - this was a huge bonus for me.
“I enjoyed attending the week-long blocks of study at UCLan as this was the chance for all students to mix and compare notes while being in the clinics and testing real patients was great. This course also allowed me to put into practice techniques I was learning at uni. It really was the best blend of working, earning money and studying for the qualification.”