The Doctor of Optometry/ Doctor of Ophthalmic Science (previously known as the Aston “Ophthalmic Doctorate”) is a unique qualification - a professional doctorate - that enables eye care professionals to enhance their knowledge, and critical awareness of current issues, and to be at the forefront of their academic discipline through taught and research elements.
The taught element of the programme aims to allow practitioners to enhance their understanding of more advanced ophthalmic topics and to bring their knowledge up to date in evidence-based eye care. The programme also involves an interdisciplinary participation so that students qualified for ophthalmology, optometry, dispensing optics and orthoptics as well as other health care professionals can study both basic and clinical visual science to a higher level. The number of taught elements taken at any time is flexible and can be accumulated over a period of five years.
Taught modules 20 credits each, nominally equivalent to 200 hours of student learning. Most modules consist of ten 2 hour remote access lectures with 12 multiple choice questions (MCQs) and a module coursework assignment such as 5 case records including reflection, or a 3000 word essay or literature review related to the module. There are two study periods per year to complete taught modules; 1st October -31st January and 1st March - 30th June. Module results are ratified at Examination Boards held shortly after the end of each study period.
The research project is the major component of the doctorate, supervised by members of the Optometry Subject Group academic staff. Students will develop their research proposals based upon their own clinical interests, or may opt to select a project nominated by an Aston academic. Because this is a distance-learning programme, the research is not normally carried out on the University campus, and it is essential that the student has access to the facilities and resources needed to carry out the research, usually in the student's place of work.
The research stage requires a significant long-term commitment, as it is equivalent to around 2 years of full-time work (i.e. 4 years part-time). Candidates ultimately submit a thesis which is examined in a viva voce examination.
The Doctor of Optometry programme is aimed at practising optometrists, who will complete case records where required for taught module coursework, and will undertake a practice- based research project. The Doctor of Ophthalmic Science programme is for eye care professionals who may not be practising optometrists, e.g. medics/ orthoptists/ product designers; these students may complete scientific essays to fulfil the coursework requirements, and undertake a non-clinical research project.
This degree is only available as part-time distance learning, so it is vital that the student has access to a good broadband internet connection.
Flexible credit accumulation
New students initially register as LHS postgraduate students within a framework of flexible credit accumulation (FCA). Within this framework it is possible to graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate in Optometry (60 taught credits); Postgraduate Diploma in Optometry (120 taught credits); M.Sc. in Optometry/ Ophthalmic Science (180 credits: 120 taught, 60 dissertation) or the Doctor of Optometry (DOptom)/ Doctor of Ophthalmic Science (DOphSc).
As part of the flexible programme, UK optometrists may complete the theoretical element of the GOC-approved Independent Prescribing for Optometrists. Further information is available here: http://www1.aston.ac.uk/lhs/cpd/courses/optometry/independent-prescribing-for-optometrists/
The MSc requires the completion of 6 taught modules (120 credits) and a 60 credit narrative research review (dissertation).
Completion of the DOptom/ DOphSc requires 180 taught module credits and successful completion of a substantial personal research project, with submission of a thesis/ portfolio of work and a viva voce examination with an internal and external examiner. Up to 60 credits may be awarded through relevant and recent Accredited Prior Learning (APL). To progress to full doctoral registration requires a minimum of 120 taught module credits including the compulsory 20 credit Research Methods module, an approved project proposal, and successful completion of the qualifying report stage, assessed by viva voce examination with an internal examiner. The report and the viva voce examination will be used to assess suitability for progression to the full doctoral project.
Timescales for study
Taught credits are valid for 5 years, so students studying for an MSc./ PG Diploma/ PG Certificate must complete their studies within 5 years of enrolment on the programme.
Students undertaking the DOptom/DOphSc. programme must complete their taught module requirement and complete the research stage within 6 years of registration. Note that in accordance with University Regulations for part-time research students, the earliest date for completion of the doctoral programme (i.e. submission of thesis/ portfolio) is 4 years following registration.