Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Theory) - PgDip

2024/25 Part-time Postgraduate course


Postgraduate Diploma


Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


School of Biomedical Sciences


This course is taught online so you can study where you want, when you want.

Start date:

October 2024


This course covers all the most recent advances in laser refractive and refractive cataract surgery, from pre-assessment to complex case management


The Postgraduate Diploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery is now in its 18th year.

It was originally conceived and developed by Professor Tara Moore (Course Director, Professor of Personalised Medicine, Ulster University) who recognised the necessity for a high quality, evidence based, remote teaching platform for refractive and cataract surgery, students of which are often in full-time employment and reliant on ad-hoc teaching from inconsistent, biased or outdated sources.

Following the success of the original course, and as Refractive and Cataract practices changed, there were subsequent revisions led by Dan Reinstein, London Vision Clinic, Visiting Professor at Ulster University.

The teaching team for the course has recently been further restructured and updated with a carefully selected faculty of leading cataract and refractive surgeons from around the world.

The course includes contributions, reviewed, updated and added to annually, from internationally renowned specialists, complemented by a dedicated team of tutors who represent some of the brightest minds in ophthalmology and refractive surgery today. The course team currently includes Tim Archer (London, UK), Jack Gormley (Leeds, UK), Antonio Leccisotti (Siena, Italy), James Eide Macpherson (Oslo, Norway), Nick Maycock (Winchester, UK), Dan Reinstein (London, UK), Justin Sherwin (Melbourne, Australia), Alex Shortt (London, UK), Paul Tomlins (Gloucester, UK), Karim Tourkmani (Doha, Qatar), Andy Turnbull (Bournemouth, UK) and Geraint Williams (Hereford, UK).

The course undergoes review by external examiners including Professor Sheraz Daya, Mr Mayank Nanavaty and Professor Sathish Srinivasan

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

About this course


This programme has been designed in collaboration with The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) standards, curriculum and examination committees.

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.

Tara Moore, Professor of Personalised Medicine, concurrently holds a chair at Ulster University in Northern Ireland and is Chief R&D Officer for Avellino Labs in Menlo Park San Francisco USA.

This course has ensured many hundreds of eye surgeons worldwide are educated to the highest of standards in preparation for both laser and lens extraction eye surgery.

Administration and pastoral support and additional course direction is provided by Associate Course Director, Dr Andrew Nesbit, and the eLearning Team at Ulster University.


Fully online distance learning.

Notional student effort: 10 hours per credit point.

Start dates

  • October 2024

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Lectures will be delivered online via Blackboard Learn in the form of MP4 videos, HTML, PDF, 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.

Attendance and Independent Study

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:

  • 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, 20, or 40 credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate courses 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. Teaching and learning activities will be in-person and/or online depending on the nature of the course. 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

    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 assessments. This feedback may be issued individually and/or issued to the group and you will be encouraged to act on this feedback for your own development.

    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, the assessment timetable and the assessment brief. 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. The module pass mark for undergraduate courses is 40%. The module pass mark for postgraduate courses is 50%.

  • 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 Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

    Figures correct for academic year 2022-2023.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 60% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (19%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (22%) 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 and learning support staff (85%) are recognised as fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advance HE - 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.

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 2022-2023.


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

Standard 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.

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.

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.


Start dates

  • October 2024

Fees and funding

Important notice - Tuition fees for this course may vary

Visit Tuition Fees pages for more details on the price of this course.

Additional mandatory costs

It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. 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 Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.

There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

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

See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.


We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

For more information visit


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