New optometry degree to launch in September

Issue date: 15 May 2018

A new optometry course is to welcome 30 students in September 2018. The three-year BSc degree will enable undergraduates to gain practical experience in leading high street opticians and specialist clinics, as well as in a fully functioning clinic on campus.

The course, which sits within the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, will be based at the University's Glenside campus, where optometry students will have access to new purpose-built facilities in a refurbished Grade II listed building. These state of the art facilities include an optics lab, project rooms, multi-functional teaching spaces, and training bays containing specialist equipment.

For the first two years, undergraduates will use these facilities to apply their knowledge in a simulated clinical environment, where they will practise learned techniques on each other and on manikins. Within the optics labs, they will carry out experiments with light, learning about refraction, diffraction and polarization.

The course also provides students with practice-based training during several one-week placements throughout the three years in high street optometrists, specialist clinics and hospitals. This will offer them the chance to practise specific techniques they have learned in the classroom. The team have been working with a range of partners in the development of the programme.

Sally Moyle, Associate Dean (Partnerships) in UWE Bristol's Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, said: “We are working with several partners in the region including local NHS Trusts, independent providers and high street optometrists. Many are very excited about the programme as they have not previously supervised undergraduate optometrists on work placements before.”

Third year students will be able to work within a fully functioning on-site public-facing optometry clinic, where they will gain real-world experience. Based on campus and manned by the final year students, it will provide primary care to UWE Bristol students, staff and to local residents. The clinic will also contain specialist clinics to treat patients with more complex eye conditions.

Dr Vivien Gibbs, who is Head of Department – Allied Health Professions, said: “From our perspective, it was very important that we make this course practice-oriented, so that these practitioners can go out into the work place with real-world experience and are ready to step into the role.

Dr Rebekah Stevens, the Programme Leader for the new Optometry course highlighted that the field of optometry is an evolving landscape. “We feel it is important that they are prepared for the changes to the role and therefore have included some specialist subjects, usually only learned by registered optometrists who are looking to gain higher qualifications,” said Dr Stevens.

The course is set to fill a gap in the regional market, given a lack of home-grown optometry professionals in the area. Sally Moyle said: “Some leading opticians have to recruit optometrists from abroad, and we will be able to train many students for this workforce who live within a 50-mile radius of Bristol.”

To boost students' employment prospects and to develop them as enterprising practitioners, the course also offers a business module covering the retail sector and basic accounting.

As of September 2019, the programme is set to double its intake and receive 60 undergraduates.

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