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Studying optometry in the UK: a guide for Canadian students

Myopia - CPD

Over recent years there has been increasing interest in our optometry courses from Canadian applicants. Some of our Canadian graduates now live and work in the UK, whilst some have returned to practice in Canada.

We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions from Canadian applicants:

You will need to go through a process that is set by the Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FORAC). They are responsible for the credential assessment of candidates educated outside North America intending on applying for registration to practice optometry in any province of Canada. Information relating to their credentialing process and requirements can be found here (please note this process is subject to change at any time).

It is important that you investigate the possibility of returning to practice in Canada before applying to this course.

Yes, despite studying outside of North America you may still be eligible for government funding for your studies. For example, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) may provide financial support to students studying at Aston University.

In the UK most optometry students will have completed high school qualifications called GCSEs and A levels before entering onto the Optometry degree programme. Students are not required to have an undergraduate degree like they are in Canada. The route to becoming a qualified optometrist in the UK includes the following steps: 

  • Completion of an Optometry degree
  • Completion of a Pre-registration Period, which usually takes around a year (students are paid during this year). During this year, students sit professional qualifying exams that are set by the College of Optometrists. Once these exams have been passed, the student can apply for registration with the General Optical Council.

This process takes around four years in total. 

At Aston, we offer two slightly different pathways: 

  • The first ‘traditional’ pathway is to complete a three year BSc on Optometry, graduate, and then start the Pre-registration period within an optometric practice anywhere in the UK.
  • A second Master’s of Optometry (MOptom) option has been recently introduced. With this option, students carry out the three years of the BSc programme in exactly the same way as those on the BSc route. The difference is that these students do not graduate after three years. Instead, they remain enrolled at Aston as distance learning students. They start their Pre-registration periods at a practice in the UK at the same time as the BSc students, but while they are working as pre-registered optometrists, they also complete distance learning modules as part of the MOptom programme. The cost of this year is the same as the other three years of the programme. One of the additional advantages to international students is that they do not have to apply for a work visa in order to progress onto the Pre-registration period. 

In the UK, optometrists do not use the prefix ‘Dr’ like they do in Canada. There are two ways in which UK optometrists might become Doctors of Optometry: 

  • By completing a PhD by research
  • By completing a Doctor of Optometry, like the one offered here at Aston. So, in the UK, optometrists complete their Doctorate post-qualification, if they want to. 

The A level entry requirements that you see posted on our website relate to the qualifications taken by high school students in England. In England and the rest of the UK, degrees such as optometry, medicine, dentistry are taken as undergraduate (bachelors) degrees which students can enter at age 18, straight after high school.

Canadian applicants can apply to study optometry at Aston directly from High School, or after completing an undergraduate degree. Please contact us for details of what grades are required.

All applications should be made via the Universities and College Application Service (UCAS). The application requires details of your academic qualifications, a personal statement and an academic reference. You can find lots of information and advice on their website.

For any questions regarding applying to Aston to study optometry, please contact ugadmissions@aston.ac.uk.