Orthoptics (Pre-registration) MSc
Why study orthoptics and how to become an orthoptist
The UCL Orthoptics (pre-registration) MSc is the UK's first dedicated accredited graduate entry programme that provides an accelerated route to theoretical knowledge and clinical training underpinning professional registration (with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)) and practice as an autonomous orthoptist. Successful completion of this programme will allow you to quality and practice as an accredited orthoptist.
A key benefit of studying on this programme is that you will be taught by world-leading experts from UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital. Together, this represents the largest co-located site for eye research, education, and care in the world. You will, through blended learning opportunities, learn about paediatric ophthalmology, strabismus (ocular misalignment), ocular motility disorders, and other eye and vision health issues and diseases. Wider learning encompasses core research methods and statistics and extended clinical knowledge of complex ophthalmic and neuro-ophthalmic conditions.
The programme will provide you with 1,000 hours of supervised placement activity so that you will graduate with first-hand orthoptic clinical experience and confidence to work in a clinical setting.
- Mode of learning
This programme is delivered through a blended learning approach with a combination of face-to-face and online lectures, collaborative and co-operative learning activities, clinical skills labs, tutorials, virtual classrooms, self-directed learning, and clinical placements. As an accredited programme, you are required to attend 100% of teaching activities, across an extended academic year.
Taught modules are generally five weeks in length and comprise 30-35 hours of activity each week. Block clinical placements occur across England in 4-week blocks, with three blocks per year.
You will have access to the Moodle learning platform, including discussion forums where you can share knowledge and experiences with your peers. You will also have access to the library resources and support at UCL.
This programme is designed to equip students with the requisite knowledge and skills to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as an Orthoptist. Graduates will likely undertake a career in Orthoptics and will learn about extended clinical roles. There are also opportunities to pursue further training to undertake a clinical academic career. Many students will go on to work in the NHS.
- Programme structure
In Year One, you will learn about the visual system, optics, core and complex orthoptics, and paediatric ophthalmology. Clinical teaching at UCL is consolidated during clinical placements. The first term is aimed at providing the necessary teaching in anatomy, physiology, and professional standards, and supporting all students to have the knowledge to succeed on this programme, irrespective of your background.
In Year Two, modules will cover research methods and statistics, broader ophthalmology, sale and supply of medicinal products (specific to orthoptics) and clinical placements. You will enhance your research skills through a library-based research project on a topic related to orthoptic/ophthalmic practice.
Throughout your time at UCL, you will be paired with a clinical or clinical academic mentor so you can discuss what you are learning and experiencing in your lectures and clinical placements with an expert working in the field.
All modules are compulsory. These include:
- OPHT0069 – Orthoptics I
- OPHT0070 – Ophthalmology I
- OPHT0071 – Orthoptics II
- OPHT0072 – Clinical placement I
- OPHT0073 – Ophthalmology II
- OPHT0074 – Clinical placement II
- OPHT0075 – Orthoptics III
- OPHT0076 – Research methods and statistics
- OPHT0077 – Sale, supply and administration of medicinal products
- OPHT0078 – Ophthalmology III
- OPHT0079 – Clinical placement III
- OPHT0080 – Dissertation
OPHT0069 – Orthoptics I – five weeks
This module covers core topics to develop a comprehensive understanding of visual perception and optics. It will also introduce and develop the students’ knowledge of the principles underlying theoretical and clinical Orthoptics. The module will cover:
- Anatomy and physiology of the eye, visual pathway, brain and brainstem.
- Principles of visual function and basic qualitative and quantitative testing methods.
- Fundamentals, and applications, of visual optics.
- Aetiology, effect and correction of refractive error
- Principles of binocular single vision and normal visual development
- Basic knowledge, assessment and documentation of case history and full range of tests for the assessment of binocular single vision
- Classifications, assessment, investigation and management of heterophoria
- Introduction to accommodation, convergence and associated anomalies
- Personal and professional skills
Students will have the opportunity to practice clinical skills ‘in-house’ for 1 session each week. They will also have the opportunity to attend day-placements within 1 hour of London for 10 weeks.
OPHT0070 – Ophthalmology I – five weeks
This module will cover basic principles and foundations of various types of ophthalmic imaging as well as further exploration of anatomy and physiology with particular focus on intraocular anatomy. Students will also be introduced to professional standards, multi-disciplinary working and safety in practice. This module will provide a foundation in Ophthalmic diagnostics and as such will be particularly useful in preparing for future extended role practice and ophthalmic common clinical competency framework (OCCCF) qualification.
The module will cover anatomy and physiology of relevant external and intraocular structures including:
- Development of the eye
- External/adnexal anatomy of the eye
- Anterior segment
- Posterior Segment
- Fundamentals of OCT
- Fundamentals of VF
OPHT0071 – Orthoptics II – five weeks
Using the assessment skills from Orthoptics I, this module will develop the students’ knowledge to use these skills to be able to fully investigate, diagnosis and manage all types of concomitant strabismus.
This module will introduce diagnosis and develop the management of concomitant and neurogenic cases. It will also cover:
- Diagnosis and management of all types of amblyopia
- Develop skills in enhanced Orthoptic testing and the variety of recording methods – ocular motility, synoptophore, colour vision, stereovision
- A and V patterns
- Surgical and non-surgical management of concomitant cases
As with other modules, there will be opportunities to practice assessments in-house.
OPHT0072 – Clinical placement I – eight weeks
Clinical placements form an essential and integral part of the degree programme by allowing students to develop and apply theoretical knowledge learnt in lectures and from their own further reading. These placements encourage students to apply their academic knowledge to clinical Orthoptics and general ophthalmology. Students will rotate to different accredited clinical placements sites in 4-week blocks over the 2-year programme to ensure a good balance and breadth of clinical experience is achieved. Within the clinical placement an opportunity to visit other sub-specialty areas directly relevant to the course e.g., theatre, stroke wards, screening, imaging departments.
This module will enable students to put into practice theoretical knowledge gained from the Orthoptics I, II and Ophthalmology I modules.
OPHT0073 – Ophthalmology II – five weeks
This module will cover paediatrics and paediatric ophthalmology – specialties that have close professional links to Orthoptists.
Topics will include:
- Human development
- Normative developmental milestones
- Development of the eye
- Common paediatric ophthalmic conditions
Students will also learn about professional standards and working within a multidisciplinary team (incl. continuing professional standards training, focusing on ethics, law, behaviour, self-management, communication, continued professional development, methods of review, safety, conduct and leadership) and health and social care services. Students will also study introductory psychology and sociology.
OPHT0074 – Clinical placement II – eight weeks
This module will enable students to consolidate clinical skills from theoretical knowledge gained from the entire first year of the programme. N.B. The final five weeks and assessment of Clinical placement II occurs in Year Two.
OPHT0075 – Orthoptics III – five weeks
This module will introduce diagnosis and management of incomitant mechanical and myogenic cases. The module will cover:
- Enhanced Orthoptic assessment of incomitant aetiologies – Hess/Lees, Uniocular Fields Of Fixation, field of Binocular Single Vision which will allow any progression, recovery, pre- and post-operative patient outcomes to be monitored appropriately.
- Surgical and non-surgical management of incomitant cases
- Neuro-orthoptics including stroke, supra/infranuclear eye movement disorders
- Complex strabismus and ocular motility defects
OPHT0076 – Research methods and statistics – two weeks
This module provides a comprehensive engagement with the evidence-based approaches (quantitative and qualitative data and literature review), which underpin research and clinical practice developments. The emphasis is on research principles and analysis methods. Students will learn about the various ways research can be conducted and the selection of various methods to answer specific types of questions. Students will also learn how to integrate and adapt research methodology in order to plan research projects and how to analyse different data sets using statistical software.
Students will engage in tasks such as conducting literature searches, critical reading of papers, statistical analysis, identifying and designing projects, evaluative report and presentation writing and writing grant proposals.
OPHT0077 – Sale, supply and administration of medicinal products – two weeks
This module will enable students to fulfil the requirements for annotation on the Health and Care Professions Council register as qualified to use exemptions within Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to sell, supply or administer any eye drops or ointments on the approved list, for any condition within their scope of practice and competence.
The supply and administration of medicines under exemptions by orthoptists is intended to provide patients with more timely and efficient care by supporting service redesign, making the best use of the skill set of orthoptists and offering patient choice.
OPHT0078 – Ophthalmology III – five weeks
This module will cover the theory of common disease processes within three of the four priority high throughput sub-specialties within ophthalmology: Cataract, Glaucoma and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The module will also consist of baseline clinical skills to allow the student to carry out basic assessment of patients using a slit lamp or direct ophthalmoscope. This module will provide an overview of several key areas within ophthalmology and some of the key disease processes. As such, this module will be particularly useful for preparing for future extended role practice and ophthalmic common clinical competency framework (OCCCF) qualification.
The module will cover:
- Medical retina
OPHT0079 – Clinical placement III – eight weeks
This final clinical placement module will allow students to consolidate all theoretical underpinnings for practice as an autonomous Orthoptist.
OPHT0080 – Dissertation
This module will provide students with the opportunity to shape and engage in a library-based research project that allows for an in depth and independent subspecialty ophthalmic topic to be explored, analysed in the context of current developments in the area and communicated in a substantial written format. This may, according to area of study, allow for an enhanced synthesis of theory and practice to be identified, affording students with the means of focusing their development going forward in the direction of clinical practice and/or research, and allowing them to identify personal areas of specialisation to inform their subsequent professional choices in respect to further study and employment. Independent study will be supported by research in practice sessions to support the acquisition of research and analysis skills.
Q. How many hours of teaching are there a week?
A. For non-placement modules, teaching varies between 15-20 hours a week. You will also have tutorials each week with sessional clinical placements and clinical skills labs where appropriate. In total, you should expect to spend 30-35 hours a week studying on this programme.
During clinical placement modules, you will spend all week on placement (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm), but can return home at weekends if your placement is not within commuting distance. It is also important to note that each academic year is longer than standard. Year One is 42 weeks including all taught modules, placements, and exam periods. Year Two ends with a dissertation submission at the end of August (46 weeks).
Q. Where will studies take place?
A. Face-to-face lectures will occur at the co-located UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IOO) / Moorfields Eye Hospital. Sessional clinical placements (Year One, Term One only from October through to December) will occur across sites within 1-hour of London.
You will be based at the IOO and have access to the world’s largest ophthalmic library, as well as bookable clinical suites in the Moorfields Education Hub. As UCL students, you will also have access to incredible facilities across London. Block clinical placements (four weeks at a time in one department) take place across England.
Q. How are modules assessed?
A. You will be assessed at the end of each of module through a variety of methods such as written examinations (comprising MCQ’s and short-form questions), coursework, case reports, problem-based learning scenarios, clinical examinations, and poster presentations.
Q. What are my career prospects?
A. This course is designed to enable graduates to register to practice as an orthoptist. Orthoptists generally work in a multi-disciplinary team in a hospital setting, with excellent graduate employability and career progression.
Q. How do I apply?
A. Please apply directly through UCL here. The application page has guidance for your personal statement. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed prior to being offered a place.
Q. What financial support is available?
A. The NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF) currently offers a grant of £5000/year with additional support available for childcare costs, and the ability to claim excess travel and accommodation costs whilst attending clinical placements. As these are grants, they do not need to be repaid.
Students are also eligible (even as a second degree) to apply to the Students Loans Company for further support as this a pre-registration programme to support you into a career working as an Allied Health Professional. You can also apply for annual tuition fee loans (£9250 for 2022 (please note, this is less than the programme tuition fees)), and either means or non-means tested maintenance loans. You can find out more on the UK Government's Student Finance website here.
Q. When can I apply for the student loan?
A. Applications for this programme take approximately six weeks to process so you may wish to apply for the loan while you are still waiting for a confirmed place on the course. You will need to be registered on the course before you receive any payments. You may still change your mind about studying later. You can find out more about the student loan application process here.
Applicants with a minimum 2:2 Bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Relevant subject areas include biological sciences, chemistry, nursing, and psychology.
Students from other backgrounds are also welcome to apply and should highlight in their application the strengths their previous learning and/or experience brings to being an orthoptist.
Courses undertaken at institutions other than UCL will be assessed for accreditation of prior learning (APL) on a case-by-case basis and an interview and/or candidates may be required to write a piece of work to support the APL application.
Guidance on completing your application
As part of the written application, prospective students will be asked to complete a personal statement. Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver. The statement is assessed carefully by the UCL Orthoptics MSc Selection Panel to shortlist candidates for group interviews. Applicants who fail to address the key points listed here will not be shortlisted. Your statement is limited to 700 words.
Your personal statement should tell us:
- Why you want to study orthoptics
- What makes you a strong candidate, drawing on skills, previous education, and experiences
- Where you see yourself as an Orthoptics MSc graduate
Due to a high volume of applications, we recommend that you apply for the programme as early as possible. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a group interview, either on 12 April 2023, 31 May 2023 or 19 July 2023.
Dr Dipesh Patel BMedSci, PGDip, PhD, FHEA – NIHR Advanced Fellow; Population, Policy & Practice Dept. UCL GOS Institute of Child Health and Honorary Clinical Research Fellow (Orthoptics); Moorfields Eye Hospital
Dipesh is a clinical academic orthoptist whose previous research has informed the development of clinical guidelines for the assessment of visual fields in children with complex ophthalmic disorders, in both clinical and research settings. His current research investigates key issues about amblyopia (lazy eye) management, from generating evidence to support decisions about referral for treatment, to improving understanding of management choices. Dipesh has previously held HEE NCEL and CLAHRC personal Fellowships.
Find out more about Dipesh's career as an orthoptist and information on why it is a dynamic and rewarding career in our Spotlight feature interview here.
Ms Leena Patel BMedSci, MSc, PGCert LTHE, FHEA – Consultant Orthoptist and Orthoptics Education Lead; Moorfields Eye Hospital and Honorary Teaching Fellow; UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Leena is a consultant Orthoptist who teaches formally and clinically at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital and City University. She is also a member of the Education and Professional Development Committee for British and Irish Orthoptic Society (BIOS). Leena has extensive clinical experience with a specialist interest in neuro-orthoptics. Her passion is to deliver high standards of teaching thereby enabling each individual to reach their full potential. Leena has been a volunteer orthoptist for Orbis Flying Eye Hospital since 2018.
Start date: September 2023
Duration: 2 years
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