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Optometry at Ulster - FAQs for Canadian students

How do I become an optometrist in the UK?

BSc Optometry or MOptom degrees are the first stages in becoming a fully qualified Optometrist in the UK.

You can undertake either a BSc or an MOptom at Ulster University. The route to becoming a qualified optometrist in the UK takes approximately four years and is as follows:

  1. Successful completion of an optometry degree with a degree classification of 2.2 or higher
  2. Completion of a pre-registration period and success in the College of Optometrists qualifying examinations. This period usually lasts about 12 months and is paid employment within either a high street optometric practice or the Hospital Eye Service (HES).

What is the difference between a BSc Optometry degree and an MOptom? 

From September 2017, Ulster University will offer two routes to completion of an optometry degree.

  • The first route is to complete a three-year BSc Optometry degree. After graduation, you will leave University to progress to your pre-registration period and no longer have UK student status.
  • The second route is to complete a four-year MOptom degree. Within this option you complete the three years of the BSc degree alongside those on the BSc route. At the end of year three, you do not graduate and remain enrolled as a distance-learning student for a further year. At the same time, you begin your paid pre-registration period and complete distance learning modules as part of the MOptom degree. The fees for this year are the same as the other three years of the course.

The decision on which route to choose is fluid for the first two years of the course.

As a Canadian national, it may be more helpful to undertake the four-year programme which concludes with professional registration (subject to passing the registration exams) as it makes the visa situation more straightforward.

If you are planning to return to Canada to practise, this additional year of study undertaken alongside your pre-registration clinical training provides useful skills and knowledge that help with the International Optometry Bridging Programme (IOBP).

How can a BSc Optometry degree or an MOptom from Ulster help me become an optometrist in Canada?

If you choose to complete an optometry degree outside Canada you will be required to complete the International Optometry Bridging Programme (IOBP) to practise in your home country. 

To access this programme you must pass the International Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Exam (IGOEE) and, depending on your score, you will be required to take either the 10-week (Bridging 1) or the 48-week (Bridging 2) programme. 

Finally, prior to authorisation to practise in Canada, all individuals, regardless of where they have trained, are required to pass the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO).

Either the BSc Optometry degree or MOptom from Ulster will prepare you for the IGOEE and the CACO.

Do I need A level qualifications to apply?

No. A level courses are standardised examinations taken in the UK at the end of high school which, if of a sufficient standard, allow entry to undergraduate programmes in the UK.

These courses are not available to students outside the UK, so different criteria are applied.

Canadian applicants may apply to study optometry at Ulster directly from high school or once they have completed an appropriate undergraduate degree.

We will examine your Grade Point Average (GPA) in your High School Diploma to help us decide whether you have the appropriate type and level of qualifications to enter the programme.

When do I need to apply to your course?

You can apply to our course at one of the following three stages:

  • Following completion of your high school examinations
  • During your undergraduate degree
  • Following completion of your undergraduate degree.

Application deadlines are available here. If you have any queries please contact the admissions tutor.

How can I apply? 

All applications must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

If you have any queries please contact the admissions tutor.

What will happen after I have submitted my application?

All applications are administered through UCAS and you will receive communication from them accordingly. Generally, institutions have 40 days to consider your application.

We are happy to answer any queries that you may have at any time during the application process but we do not have any administrative control over the UCAS process. 

Will I get an offer from Ulster University to study optometry?

Yes, if you meet our criteria. There are two types of offer that you may receive:

  • Unconditional offer: This means that you have fulfilled our entry requirements and if you accept the offer you will automatically have a place on our programme for the next academic year. For example, you may be accepted on your high school grades or it may be that you have completed an undergraduate degree with appropriate course content and suitable overall GPA.
  • Conditional offer: This offer has been based on your academic performance to date and it means that we require you to fulfil particular criteria. For example, if you are currently undertaking an undergraduate degree we may ask you to achieve a certain GPA.

How many references do I need to provide?

You should follow the application process as laid out by UCAS.

We would usually expect at least one academic reference but a work-related reference may also be helpful.

Would I be eligible to apply for financial help through the Ontario Student Assistance Programme (OSAP)?

Yes, Ulster University is approved for OSAP purposes.

Why would I choose a UK-based university rather than one in the US or in Australia?

One advantage of choosing to study optometry in the US is that you are not required to complete the IOBP on return to Canada.

However, as pointed out earlier, completion of the IOBP may only take 10 weeks if you achieve a good score in the IGOEE.

Study in the US is also much more expensive than study as an international student in the UK. Current US fees are at least twice as much and, in some cases, four times as much as Ulster University fees for international students.

Similarly, studying in Australia is much more expensive than in the UK as an international student. Also, in Australia, the academic year starts in February rather than in September, which means that you would have a seven-month wait before beginning your studies.

Studying at Ulster University not only provides the opportunity to explore the UK and Ireland, but other European countries are on your doorstop and provide scope to broaden your horizons even further.

Why would I choose Ulster rather than another UK-based university offering optometry?

  • Employability: 100% of our optometry graduates are employed as a pre-registration optometrist within six months of graduation.
  • Satisfaction: Optometry at Ulster scored 100% for student satisfaction in the 2014 and 2015 National Student Surveys.
  • Success: The success rates of Ulster optometry graduates in the professional qualifying examinations consistently places us in the top three of UK optometry courses.
  • Hands-on: From week one of the course, our students learn practical, clinical skills. As their skills build through the course they see real patients in our in-house clinic, in hospital and specialist placements. We have a small cohort in Ulster which allows a greater amount of small class teaching and more clinical experience during the degree.
  • Economical: The cost and quality of student accommodation in and around our campus is amongst the best in the UK.
  • Friendly: Our course is one of the smaller optometry courses in the UK. We usually have about 30-35 students in each year, so there is plenty of opportunity to get to know your year group, students from other years and the staff.
  • Scenic: The North Coast of Northern Ireland is a very beautiful place to study; the local beaches and coastline in particular are stunning and have been regularly featured in Game of Thrones.