The University of Central Lancashire given Optometry degree-awarding powers by the General Optical Council
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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), which takes five years to complete, was the first of its kind to incorporate online and classroom teaching with practical work-based experience, and 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.
In 2020, the MSci Optometry was split into the undergraduate BSc Ophthalmic Dispensing course and the renamed MSc Optometry, which continued to teach the masters’ level academic programme, taking approximately three years to complete and acting as 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 Eye Health Clinic, which works closely with Royal Preston Hospital eye department.
The first student to complete the MSci Optometry course, Katie Vickers, 36 from Essex, an optometrist at Specsavers Opticians, 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.
“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.”
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, with the Royal National Institute of Blind People claiming that sight loss in the UK is set to double from two million to over four million people by 2050.