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Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Theory) - PgDip - Video

This programme has been designed in collaboration with The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) standards, curriculum and examination committees and is the only endorsed RCOphth refractive surgery programme completed fully online in the UK.

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This programme has been designed in collaboration with The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) standards, curriculum and examination committees and is the only endorsed RCOphth refractive surgery programme completed fully online in the UK.


Students of refractive or cataract surgery are often in full-time employment and have difficulty attending taught courses. Hence, world renowned refractive surgeon, lecturer and researcher, Visiting Professor Dan Reinstein together with Course Director and Professor of Personalised Medicine Tara McMullen, undertook a full restructuring of the original course including an entirely new laser refractive section of the course including over 30 hours of fully narrated lectures, asynchronous discussion and testing forums and self-assessment tests. The course includes contributions from many internationally renowned refractive surgery specialists such as Professors Jorge Alio, David O’Brart, Renato Ambrosio, Noel Alpins, Charles Claoue, D. Jackson Coleman, to name a few. This enables students to study in their own time and location with the support of e-tutors and course discussion pages. Weekly discussion themes are based on different case scenarios.

At present, cataract and refractive surgery is poorly taught in most countries. In the UK, there is no formal training in refractive surgery and most people who undertake refractive surgery teach themselves with some help from the short introductory courses available from different organisations around the world and specific instrumentation courses organised by the manufacturers. The course aims to develop the qualities and transferable skills necessary for the understanding of the key theoretical elements necessary for effectively assisting or performing Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

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About this course

In this section


The course covers the basics of refractive surgery from how excimer lasers work to ablation profiles and topography and aberrometry. It progresses through microkeratomes and femtosecond lasers to LASEK, LASIK, phakic IOLs and clear lens extractions and the complications and management of each. Pre-op assessment and post-op followup, prevention and management of complications, surgical variants of phaco, and modern intraocular lenses (IOLs) for cataract surgery will also be covered. It is designed to be a complete introduction to the how, what and when of cataract and refractive surgery.

The aims are to:

Promote the ability to correlate pathophysiology of cataract and refractive errors with principles of surgical correction.

Promote the ability to assess available patient information and data.

Develop independence in the planning, assessment, implementation and post surgery care of cataract and refractive surgery activities; in particular microkeratomes and various lasers.

Facilitate the acquisition of a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of refractive surgery and its applications and to enhance the ability to correlate the physical principles guiding each surgical step while adhering to the principles of good medical practice.

Enhance understanding for recognition and management of intraoperative and postoperative complications.

Cultivate practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge with promotion of a critical and scholarly approach to the application of a range of refractive surgery methodologies and the interpretation of their results.

The programme aims to develop in its students the qualities and transferable skills necessary for the understanding of the key theoretical elements necessary for effectively assisting or performing Cataract and Refractive Surgery. After completion of this course further training and experience gained from shadowing individuals involved in the procedures or assisting those involved would continue to advance knowledge and understanding and develop new higher-level skills to an advanced level.

The course team explicitly state it is not the aim of this course to equip students with the necessary skills to perform cataract and refractive surgery techniques but merely to inform them of the most recent theory related to such procedures.


Fully online distance learning.

Notional student effort: 10 hours per credit point.

Start dates

  • October 2019
How to apply

Teaching and learning assessment

Lectures will be delivered online via Blackboard Learn in the form of Mp4 videos, html, pdfs, or audio files. They will communicate knowledge and provide guidance for self-directed learning.

Discussion and debate will encourage team working and communication, discussion and critical reasoning

Discussions, debates and peer learning will provide support, identify problems and allow mentoring. Specific discussion topics will debate the system under study and allow students to develop their judgement, decision-making and interpretation of diagnostic data.

Students will be expected to read a range of texts and on-line learning material, to prepare for assessments. Students will also be expected to access additional information from other sources such as peer-reviewed journals.


This course is assessed by 100% coursework. This is split up into two pieces of assessment for each module designed to match to the learning outcomes of the module.

Coursework 1: On-line discussion contributions / peer learning

Students will be expected to actively participate in the on-line discussion. A minimum of three substantive postings per week should be made and will be marked on the basis of content and originality. Every discussion forum provides an opportunity for the contribution of thoughts, views and opinions on the topic. Anecdotal experience is welcome and students can constructively criticise and debate the postings of their colleagues when appropriate. The intention is to create a lively debate on the topic, which should help to inform everyone through peer and collaborative learning.

Students will also be expected to post a reflective log discussion at the end of each module on the learning they have achieved during the course of the module.

Coursework 2: Class Tests

These weekly examinations will be compulsory. The online class tests will consist of a selection of twelve single best answer questions. The main purpose of the weekly class test is to examine students’ factual learning from the online lectures and recommended text.


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

Introduction to Theoretical Aspects of Refractive Surgery

Year: 1

The purpose of this module is to critically review foundation requisites for refractive surgery: optics, anatomy, physiology, visual acuity and visual quality, manifest refraction, optical aberrations and presbyopia.

Pre-operative Assessment in Cataract and Refractive Surgery

Year: 1

This module provides the theoretical basis for pre-operative evaluation of patients to refractive and cataract surgery. The various diagnostic techniques are thoroughly reviewed, with the help of real cases.

The Theory of Laser Refractive Surgery

Year: 1

This module covers the history and theoretical aspects of corneal laser refractive surgery including LASIK, PRK, LASEK, Epi-LASIK, and SMILE. The technology of excimer lasers, microkeratomes, and femtosecond lasers, as well as the range of ablation profiles will be reviewed. Surgical technique, safety considerations and intraoperative complications will also be discussed for each procedure. Surgical options for treating keratoconus patients will be described, as well as future treatment modalities. This is reviewed with the help of real cases.

Lens Refractive Surgery

Year: 1

This module provides the theoretical basis for complications of surface ablation, LASIK and intraocular refractive surgery are discussed and their practical management addressed, with problem-solving aimed discussions.

Correction of Regular and Irregular Astigmatism

Year: 1

Classification, aetiology and treatment of irregular (post-surgical, traumatic, etc) and regular astigmatism with laser and incision techniques are addressed. Real cases are discussed to implement understanding.

Understanding Phakic Iols

Year: 1

This module provides in-depth knowledge of preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative aspects of phakic IOLs including combinations of various refractive techniques. Real cases are discussed to implement understanding.

Correction of Presbyopia and High Ametropia

Year: 1

This module provides in-depth knowledge of the controversial aspects of presbyopia surgery, focusing special attention on the drawbacks of each of the following techniques: thermokeratoplasty; excimer laser for presbyopia; clear lens extraction/MICS; aspheric and multifocal IOLs.

Post Operative Complications of Lens and Laser Refractive Surgery

Year: 1

This module reviews the most important and updated information about post-op complications of lens and laser refractive surgery.

Business Development, Clinical Governance And Medicolegal Issues

Year: 1

This module addresses the delicate aspects of patient satisfaction, result auditing, medico legal problems, and reliability of information received by professionals. It will introduce important strategies for successful establishment of a refractive surgery business

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

Applicants must (a) have gained an Honours or non-Honours degree in a cognate discipline from a University of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, or from a recognised national awarding body, or from an institution of another country which is recognised as being of an equivalent standard;

or an equivalent standard in a Postgraduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate or an approved alternative qualification;

and (b) provide evidence of competence in written and spoken English (GCSE grade C or equivalent) or, as an alternative to the above

(c) in exceptional circumstances, where an individual has substantial and significant experiential learning, a portfolio of written evidence demonstrating the meeting of graduate qualities (including subject-specific outcomes, as determined by the Course Committee) may be considered as an alternative entrance route. Evidence used to demonstrate graduate qualities may not be used for exemption against modules within the programme.

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. (link to:

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

The majority of students undertaking this online programme will do so for their continued professional development within their individual areas of employment for career enhancement.

Professional recognition

Royal College of Opthalmologists (RCOphth)

Accredited by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists for the purposes of the jointly badged PGDiploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Theory) and RCOphth Certificate in Laser Refractive Surgery MCQ component exemption


How to apply

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

Start dates

  • October 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:

£9,374.00  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: Professor Tara McMullen

T: +44 (0)28 7012 4577


Mrs Sharon Shirley, Programme Co-ordinator

T: +44 (0)28 7012 4805


For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

School of Biomedical Sciences


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