UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


Orthoptics (Pre-registration) MSc (Closed for 2021 applications)

Orthoptists are Allied Health Professionals who are experts in the diagnosis and management of developmental eye conditions, defects in eye movement and binocular vision. In this programme, you will learn about paediatric ophthalmology, strabismus (ocular misalignment), ocular motility disorders and other eye and vision health issues and diseases to equip you to practice as an Orthoptist. Orthoptists generally work as part of a multi-disciplinary team in a hospital setting, though many Orthoptists have diverse roles.

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In this programme, you will learn how to apply the most updated practices and technology to address eye conditions through instruction from UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital staff.

The programme provides an accelerated route to theoretical knowledge and clinical training underpinning professional registration and practice as an autonomous Orthoptist. Graduates will be eligible to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

You will, through blended learning opportunities, learn core research methods and statistics and extended clinical knowledge of complex ophthalmic and neuro-ophthalmic conditions. The programme also provides 1,000 hours of placement activity so that you will graduate with first-hand clinical experience.


Mode of learning

The programme offers a range of learning approaches including clinical teaching in-house and across clinical placements across Southern regions of England, online and face-to-face lectures as well as seminars, tutorials and private study. You will have access to the Moodle learning platforms including discussion forums where you can share knowledge with your peers. You will also have full access the library resources and support.


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 be equipped with knowledge and skills to undertake extended clinical roles and/or pursue further training to undertake a clinical academic career. Many students will go on to work in the NHS.

Programme Structure
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, virtual classrooms, self-directed learning and clinical placements.  In Year One, you will learn about the visual system, optics, core and complex Orthoptics, and paediatric ophthalmology.
In Year Two modules will cover neuro-ophthalmology, 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.
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
OPHT0058 – Research methods and statistics
OPHT0077 – Sale, supply and administration of medicinal products
OPHT0078 – Ophthalmology III
OPHT0079 – Clinical placement III
OPHT0080 – Dissertation

Year 1

OPHT0069 – Orthoptics I – 5 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.

OPHT0070 – Ophthalmology I – 5 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
-    Electrodiagnostics

OPHT0071 – Orthoptics II – 5 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 – 8 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 i.e. 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 – 5 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 – 8 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 4 weeks and assessment of Clinical placement II occurs in Year 2.

OPHT0075 – Orthoptics III – 5 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

Year 2
OPHT0058 – Research methods and statistics – 2 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 – 2 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 – 5 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:
•    External/adnexal
•    Cataracts
•    Glaucoma
•    Medical retina
•    Genetics

OPHT0079 – Clinical placement III – 8 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. Students also have tutorials and sessional clinical placements each week. In total, they should expect to spend 30-35 hours a week studying on this programme. During clinical placement modules, students will spend all week on placement (9-5), but can return to London at weekends.

Q. Where will studies take place?

A. Face-to-face lectures will occur at the co-located UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IOO) or Moorfields Eye Hospital. Sessional clinical placements will occur across Moorfields sites. 
Students will be based at 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 (4 weeks at a time in one department) take place across England.

Q. How are modules assessed?

A. Students will be assessed at the end of each of module through a variety of methods such as written examinations (comprising MCQ’s), 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 – the link is available on this page. The application page has guidance for your 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 Orthoptists are in short supply, the NHS LSF is also currently offering an additional £1000/year. 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. Annual tuition loans (£9250 for 2021 (NB. This is less than postgraduate fees)) and either means or non-means maintenance loans are available on application.

Entry Criteria

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. 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. 
Your application should demonstrate:
•    why you want to study Orthoptics at graduate level
•    why you want to study Orthoptics at UCL
•    what particularly attracts you to this programme 
•    how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
•    where you would like to go professionally with your degree 
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. Your statement is limited to 700 words.

Programme Directors


Dr. Dipesh Patel BMedSci, PGDip, PhD – 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.

Ms. Leena Patel BMedSci, MSc – 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).

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Further information

Start date:
September 2021

2 years

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