The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has launched a new Optometry degree programme after receiving formal approval from the General Optical Council (GOC).

The Integrated Masters in Optometry (MSci Optometry) is the first of its kind to incorporate blended learning, combining online and classroom teaching with practical experience which is work-based.

The course has been 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 (RNIB), sight loss in the UK is set to double from two million to over four million people by 2050.

In order to be eligible for the programme, students must have worked in an Optometry practice for at least one year and have consent from their employer. They will also be required to spend one week in every four on UCLan’s Preston Campus attending residential ‘blocks’, embedding learning into clinical and practical skills throughout each year.

Delivered through the Vision Science division of UCLan’s School of Medicine, the five-year programme will see teaching and learning focused on the development of expertise in a range of areas including ophthalmic dispensing, standards of practice, management of vision and eye abnormalities and leadership.

The course is a fast-track programme as within each calendar year, the teaching and learning will be delivered over three semesters meaning there are no long gaps between learning. Completion of the first two years of the course will result in students being awarded the BSc (Hons) Ophthalmic Dispensing qualification with the added flexibility of being able to exit the programme at that point. For those progressing onto the additional three years the final (fifth) year will see students combine the Optometry Scheme for Registration period along with the Master’s research project module.

The University is now recruiting for applicants to embark on the programme which will begin September 2019.

Professor Cathy Jackson, Head of UCLan’s School of Medicine, said: “Across the UK, a localised shortage of optometrists in areas away from cities has been a problem for many years.

“Our unique programme, designed with the blended learning approach, will help solve this problem by targeting those already working within the industry. The course is also aligned with the University’s strategy of engaging with local and national employers to address skills gaps in hard to recruit areas, following the blueprint set by our established medical and dental provision.”

Rupal Lovell-Patel, Academic Lead for Vision Sciences at the School of Medicine, added: “Receiving approval from the General Optical Council (GOC) is a significant step and we’re pleased to now be able to offer this programme to those looking to advance their careers, supporting both individuals and employers in this sector. It will provide a valuable opportunity to upskill through flexible learning, much like degree apprenticeships which enable students to earn as they learn.”

For more information on the programme, visit: https://www.uclan.ac.uk/courses/msci-optometry.php