Counting down to London 2012: why not study optometry in the UK?

London is counting down to the 2012 Olympic Games, focusing the eyes of the world on the United Kingdom. But, of course, sport isn’t the only reason to come to the UK, says Karen Sparrow from the Association of Optometrists.

With less than a year to go to the next Olympic Games, now is the perfect time to study in the United Kingdom. Britain is focusing on sport for the Olympics, but also on communities in a country of incredible diversity. It is a country steeped in history, with ancient towns to discover and an incredibly varied landscape to explore. Add to that vibrant, fun-loving cities and you get a great mix, plus a stepping stone to travel across Europe too!

So why not come to study optometry in Britain? UK optometry has the widest scope of practice in Europe, similar to that of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. That means optometrists in Britain can examine eye health, use diagnostic drugs and monitor patients with eye disease, as well as refract for eye glasses and contact lenses, and assist with refractive surgery patients. Optometrists enjoy a close relationship with the medical sector and have gained prescribing rights which allow access to a greater range of therapeutic drugs and an even wider use of professional skills to treat and manage eye disease.

To study in the UK you have a choice of nine universities with optometry departments spread across the UK, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including a brand new optometry school opening at the University of Plymouth in 2011. You can also qualify at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland and your qualification there is automatically recognised by the UK governing body, The General Optical Council (GOC) www.optical.org

Counting down to London 2012: why not study optometry in the UK?

“Living and studying in the UK is a 
great experience. Come and find out why we are obsessed by warm drinks, the weather and football (soccer) - and have a great time!”

After a three/four year BSc degree course, students need to complete a pre-registration period of around twelve to fifteen months of further assessment and exams, before being accepted on the GOC Register. During this period as a trainee, students work full-time and also study for workplace assessments and final exams. Once UK-registered, optometrist salaries are good (approximately £25,000 for newly qualified optometrists), with a premium rate for rural and coastal areas. If you are eligible to work in the UK, including the relevant work visa where required, jobs are easily secured in all areas as an employed optometrist, a locum, in a hospital, or even running your own practice.

And what if you want to go back home afterwards? Canadian students can qualify in the UK and then undertake a ‘Bridging Programme’ back home to become 
a Canadian optometrist (see 
www.optometry.uwaterloo.ca/iobp). 
There are also conversion programmes for other countries to enable UK qualified optometrists to work there such as - 
www.ocanz.org - for Australia and New Zealand. Plus, a number of Colleges of Optometry in the United States provide courses such as the Advanced Standing International Program (ASIP) at the New England College of Optometry. Closer to the UK, Ireland operates a mutual recognition programme between the GOC and the Irish Opticians Board/Bord Na Radharcmhastóirí. See www.opticiansboard.ie and www.optometrists.ie

Britain acts as a great base for travel around Europe, and part-time jobs while studying will enable you to save for that ‘European tour’! Living and studying in the UK is a 
great experience. Come and find out why we are obsessed by warm drinks, the weather and football (soccer) - and have a great time!

For more information about optometry in 
the UK, visit www.studentaop.org.uk and www.college-optometrists.org

Karen Sparrow
Optometrist and Education Advisor
Association of Optometrists
www.aop.org.uk

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