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Distance learning MSc provides the opportunity for optometrists to develop their clinical skills and to undertake extended clinical roles.


This fully online course is for working optometrists who wish to further their knowledge, skills and understanding to Master's level. The programme recognises and incorporates Professional Certificates from the College of Optometrists. Modules have been designed with contributions from guest experts from ophthalmology, clinicians from hospital settings and other specialists.

Graduates of this course will be equipped with skills to undertake extended clinical roles, promote the development of eye care within their region. They will develop critical thinking skills to evaluate and undertake research, and may go on to further research endeavours including doctoral research training.

Self-motivation, independent learning, problem solving and developing and communicating scientific arguments are encouraged through a programme which emphasizes critical thinking. A research project will be undertaken by the student in an area of their choosing with support from an academic supervisor.

Our course team have many years experience in teaching optometry and vision science to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Ulster.

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About this course

In this section


The course aims to foster advanced knowledge in clinical issues for optometrists, with an emphasis on how research informs practice and the evolution of eye care services and capabilities. The programme recognises and incorporates Professional Certificates from the College of Optometrists. Modules have been designed with contributions from guest experts from ophthalmology, clinicians from hospital settings and other specialists. A number of CET points are available for optometrists undertaking these modules.

This course is delivered by distance learning, on a part-time basis, so is designed for working optometrists to fit their learning around their other commitments.

Graduates of this course will be equipped with skills to undertake extended clinical roles, promote the development of eye care within their region. They will develop critical thinking skills to evaluate and undertake research, and may go on to further research endeavours including doctoral research training.

Ulster University is experienced in delivering courses through distance learning and has bespoke support and online delivery of teaching through the virtual learning environment, BlackBoard Learn. Distance learning offers the student the advantage of learning at their pace and preferred time, and teaching materials have been specifically developed with the distance learner in mind, ensuring access is simple and comprehensive. Support for distance learning students is at hand daily from online tutors and the e-Learning Support Unit at Ulster.

The MSc course is designed and structured so you will have the opportunity to choose a particular area of study that interests you, building from a series of Professional certificates and then going on to study ophthalmic public health and advanced retinal imaging or choosing to undertake the Theory of Independent prescribing for optometrists The skills of self-motivation, independent learning, problem solving and developing and communicating scientific arguments are encouraged and developed through a programme which emphasizes critical thinking and discussion of issues through online media.

Students may not wish to undertake the whole MSc (180 credits), and there are options to undertake a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCERT), which amounts to 60 credits, or a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDIP), at 120 credits.

For those completing the MSc programme, a research project will be undertaken by the student in an area of their choosing with support and guidance from an academic supervisor. In addition, another member of staff will coordinate this module and provide generic support. This project will be a significant and novel piece of research.

Note: The University regularly ‘refreshes’ courses to make sure they are as up-to-date as possible. The University calls this process 'academic revalidation’. This course is currently being ‘refreshed’, with changes put in place for students entering from September 2017 onwards. Please contact the Course director for the most up-to-date module information.


This is a part-time distance learning course and students access learning material via a virtual learning environment. 'elearning' is an excellent route for postgraduate learning as it gives unique flexibility and ownership of how and when you learn. It is a different experience from traditional face to face learning and is especially suited to adults who like to learn independently and are self-motivated. This course has been specifically designed with the elearner in mind, so learning material is appropriately displayed and students are encouraged to participate in discussion boards, and to contribute to online chats and are given regular small tasks to complete so learning is broken down into manageable segments.

Start dates

  • September 2019
How to apply

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.

Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:

- the relevant generic national Qualification Descriptor

- the applicable Subject Benchmark Statement

- the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.

Attendance and Independent Study

As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.

Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.

The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.

Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.

Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.


Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.

Calculation of the Final Award

The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).

Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.

All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

There are a range of ways students are assessed, including MCQ's and short answers online tests, case scenarios, essays and reports, and evidence of practical skills.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (18%) or Lecturers (57%).

We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.

Read more

The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.

Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.

Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Low Vision

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will equip the optometrist with specialist skills to conduct an in-depth assessment of those with low vision and provide a holistic low vision management plan.

This course is aligned with the College of Optometrists higher Qualifications in specialist skills and as such, students successfully completing this course, including the practical assessment components, will be awarded a Professional Certificate in Low Vision.

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module is fully delivered online and addresses the needs of healthcare practitioners keen to develop a specialist interest in glaucoma diagnosis and management. The module encourages the expansion of clinical diagnostic and critical thinking skills, enabling students to engage in the evaluation of how evidence based strategies may be employed to enhance their clinical practice.

Medical Retina

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will enable the health care practitioner to develop and enhance their expertise and skills in the area of medical retina allowing them to widen their professional practice in this rapidly widening area.

Paediatric Eyecare

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will equip students with advanced knowledge of paediatric vision and visual development; both typical and anomalous. It uses up-to-date literature to provide an evidence base for the visual assessment and management of children.

Year two

Evidence-Based Practice in Healthcare Sciences

Year: 2

This module is optional

A work-based module where students review, after consultation with their line manager, an aspect of their professional practice identifying evidence to support their recommendations, initiate the keeping of a professional reflective diary and submit a report of evidence to support their action research plan. Students currently not in employment will be given advice on suitable topics from the module co-ordinator.

Principles of Pharmacology and Prescribing

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module will equip the optometrist with further skills in pharmacology and prescribing to allow the development of safe and effective management of ocular conditions. The knowledge gained during this module will enhance the students ability to work effectively as an optometric independent prescriber.

Assessment, management and treatment of ocular conditions

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module will equip the optometrist with further skills in ocular therapeutics to allow appropriate management of a wide range of ocular conditions. Completion of this module will enhance the Optometrist's up-to-date knowledge of current treatment regimes for a wide range of ocular conditions and enhance his or her scope of practice.

Public Health in Optometry: national and global perspectives

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module will give students an in-depth understanding of ophthalmic public health in optometry and eyecare.

Structure/function relationships in Ocular Disease

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module is fully delivered on-line. It enhances knowledge in the specialist assessment of retinal structure and function in both the normal and diseased eye and allows the development of critical thinking skills.

Year three

MSc Research Project

Year: 3

This research project is an independent piece of work, and will develop the student's research skills by making an original contribution to their chosen area of investigation. This will be expressed in the form of a scientific thesis which will add to knowledge in an area of optometry and vision science.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

In this section

Entry Requirements

Students will be considered for entry to the Master's programme on an individual basis. The minimum entry criteria for the MSc in Advanced Clinical Optometry are as follows:

  • Students currently holding at least a (2:2) BSc degree in Optometry or another related discipline from a university in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, or from an institution which is recognised by the Senate for this purpose; or
  • Students currently holding the European Diploma in Optometry (level 6 professional qualification recognised in Europe and by the GOC in the UK); or
  • Candidates who have an equivalent standard (normally 50%) in a Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma or an approved alternative qualification;
  • Candidates who do not meet the above requirements but who hold other qualifications and professional experience may be considered eligible for admission to the programme by accreditation of prior experiential learning (APL). Those candidates who wish to be considered in terms of experiential learning must complete an APL portfolio of evidence and send this with their application.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

For students that have already gained a PgCERT qualification in the Theory of Independent Prescribing for Optometrists, or have gained one or more Professional Certificates accredited by the College of Optometrists, these will be recognised by the course and exemptions will apply.

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

Graduates will gain a Master's in Advanced Clinical Optometry from a UK university designed to enhance their academic and professional development. Graduates may use skills obtained to effectively promote and develop eye care in their area, and take part in enhanced eye care services. Graduates will gain valuable experience of undertaking research activities and producing high quality scientific reports. These skills will support the graduates who wish to develop their research careers.


How to apply

Please email the Course Director, Dr Julie-Anne Little, for any enquiries about the programme.

Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.

Start dates

  • September 2019

Fees and funding

In this section

Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Fees illustrated are based on 19/20 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees

Northern Ireland & EU:

£14,060.00  Scholarships available

Additional mandatory costs

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


Course Director: Dr Julie-Anne Little

T: +44 (0)28 7012 4374


Admissions Office

T: +44 (0)28 7012 3210


For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

School of Biomedical Sciences


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