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


Study Clinical Visual Science at Ulster University in the United Kingdom.


This fully online course is organised and structured so you have the opportunity to choose a particular area of study that interests you, with a balance of core modules to encourage scientific thinking and the critical review of concepts. Modules have been designed with contributions from guest experts from ophthalmology, clinicians from hospital settings and other specialists. 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.

Graduates of this course will be equipped to evaluate and undertake research; they will have enhanced knowledge of aspects of advanced vision science. The will be equipped with skills to undertake extended clinical roles, promote the development of eye care within their region and may provide a pathway for further research endeavours including doctoral research training.

Our course team have many years experience in teaching optometry and vision science to undergraduate and post-graduate students at Ulster. The MSc/PgDIP/PgCERT in Clinical Visual Science compliments and extends our current General Optical Council approved BSc (Hons) Optometry course which has been producing high quality graduates for over 16 years.

Note: this course is currently under review at present, so the content outlined is provisional.

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About this course

In this section


The course aims to foster advanced theoretical knowledge in clinical issues within the field of vision science, with an emphasis on how research informs practice and the evolution of eye care services and capabilities.

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, with a balance of core modules to encourage scientific thinking and the critical review of concepts. 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.

The vision science 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.

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: this course is current under review at present, so the content outlined is provisional.


This is a 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 2016
How to apply


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

Clinical governance, regulatory processes and ethics

Year: 1

This module is designed to provide an understanding of the concepts of clinical governance, its regulatory processes and how it relates to ethics. The module also covers research governance and good ethical research practice. It creates a foundation for the clinical trials design and patient recruitment module. Teaching includes online lectures and online tutorials.

Evidence-Based Practice in Healthcare Sciences

Year: 1

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 portfolio 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.

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

Applied Research Methods

Year: 2

This module provides the foundation for research in the biosciences. The design of experimental investigations and the use of biostatistical methods are discussed. The module requires the completion of computer sessions, a critical evaluation of published literature, problem-based assessments; issues relating to international research governance are included.

MSc Research Project

Year: 2

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 Clinical Visual Science are as follows:

  • Students currently holding at least a (2:2) BSc degree in Optometry or a bachelor’s degree in Orthoptics, Medicine, 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 for Tier 4 visa purposes.

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

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

Graduates will gain a Master's in Clinical Visual Science from a UK university designed to enhance their academic and professional development. 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. Graduates may use skills obtained to effectively promote and develop eye care in their area.


Please note there will be no intake to this course in September 2016.

How to apply

Start dates

  • September 2016

Fees and funding

In this section

Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Tuition fees shown are for last years entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing and may be subject to an annual increase. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study. Read our Tuition Fees Payment Policy

Northern Ireland & EU:

Additional mandatory costs

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel and normal living are a part of university life. 

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them in the online prospectus. 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


Faculty Office

T: +44 (0) 28 7012 4159