Optometry BSc (Hons)

Course code B510

What is special about this course?

There is growing demand for optometrists, highly skilled healthcare professionals, trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormalities. Through this innovative, interactive degree, you’ll develop the knowledge and skills you need to work as an optometrist and, importantly, continually adapt to the challenges faced in delivering eye-care provision in today’s health care environment. 

Our progressive programme challenges the way optometry has been traditionally taught in the UK by following a proven, problem-based and team-based approach to your learning and teaching. Through this method, you will gain in-depth theoretical knowledge, practical experience and develop required skills, including critical thinking, problem solving and patient management, from an early stage.

As well as practical experience within clinical workshops, delivered in modern, purpose-built facilities in Inverness, you will also be immersed in genuine clinical situations, which allow you to work with employers and gain valuable experience in a safe and supported environment. From year one, you will undertake a combination of placements in community practice and hospital eye clinics, alongside clinical skills training. Over the duration of the course you will be out on placements for 19 weeks in total culminating in an extended placement in your fourth year. You will be seeing real-life patients in real-life settings, which will be vital for your future practice. On successful completion of this degree programme you will be equipped with both the academic and practical skills needed to enter the College of Optometrists Scheme for Registration1 as a pre-registration optometrist.

This programme is a direct response to the needs of our communities, with workforce plans suggesting an additional 800 optometrists are likely to be needed across the UK to meet the demands of an ageing population and the associated prevalence of visual impairment and visual health disorders.2 This need is felt most acutely in remote and rural areas, and with pressures on the NHS, increased focus on extended roles and shared care with ophthalmology, this will further heighten demand for skilled optometry professionals.

Our programme – one of only two in Scotland - is aligned to the requirements of the General Optical Council (GOC) and currently holds GOC provisional approval.3


Please note that in order to enter the College of Optometrists scheme for registration you must achieve a degree classification of 2.2. or above and a certificate of clinical competency in the GOC stage 1 competencies. Students who gain sufficient academic credits at level 10 to receive an award but do not meet the professional requirements will gain the award of SCQF Level 10 BSc (Hons) Vision Science.

Source: College of Optometrists Optical Workforce Survey 2015

3 This course currently has provisional approval from the General Optical Council (GOC). Under provisional approval, students recruited on to the course are not guaranteed entry to the GOC register and may be required to undertake additional assessments through an alternative GOC-approved education provider in the event that any aspect of the programme when delivered does not satisfy the GOC standards.

Special features

  • Uses a proven, problem-based and team-based learning curriculum approach that extends the training and role of the optometrist, particularly in remote and rural areas
  • Taught by a professional team of clinical and academic staff
  • Based at UHI House in Inverness, you will have access to specialist on-site clinical facilities
  • Taught using a combination of face-to-face and online study, with extensive clinical skills training, case studies and scenarios, complemented by community and hospital placements
  • Clinical placements across all years of study, helping to consolidate learning and enabling early and continuous exposure to real patients


We offer modern student accommodation at a number of our locations.

Entry requirements

  • 4 Scottish Highers at grade ABBB which must include 2 science subjects out of the following - physics, biology or human biology, chemistry, mathematics 
    • For those without mathematics or physics at higher, National 5 mathematics or National 5 Applications of mathematics at grade B or above or standard grade mathematics (grade 2) level or above
    • English at higher is preferred, although other essay-based subjects such as history or modern studies would be accepted as an alternative. For those without English higher, or equivalent, then National 5 English at grade B or above or standard grade English (grade 2) level or above
  • 3 A levels at BBB which must include 2 science subjects out of the following - physics, biology or human biology, chemistry, mathematics 
    • For those without mathematics or physics at A level, then GCSE mathematics at a minimum of grade B/5 is required
    • For those without English at A level, then GCSE English Language at minimum grade B/5 is required
  • A science-based HNC such as HNC Applied Sciences with grade B or above in the graded unit
  • Applicants with a recognised qualification in ophthalmic dispensing such as FBDO may also apply and will be considered on an individual basis
  • Recognised European or International equivalent qualifications are considered. If English is not your first language, you must have evidence of your English language skills:
    • You must have obtained a minimum score of 7 in the academic International English language Testing System (IELTS) or equivalent. Individual scores for each section of the test must not be lower than 6, with the exception of the ‘Speaking’ section, where a minimum score of 7 is required.
    • Please note that English language tests need to have been taken no more than two years prior to the start date of the course
  • This is a Category 1 PVG course: PVG Scheme membership is required to successfully achieve target qualification, where there is guaranteed contact with vulnerable groups in key elements of the course. For further information visit our PVG scheme webpage
  • Successful applicants must be passed fit by occupational health. This will require a questionnaire and also a personal visit to the occupational health department in addition to and on a separate occasion to the interview day
  • All applicants will be required to attend an interview. Full guidelines will be provided in advance of the interview day, including required preparation for the event. As part of the interview you will be expected to demonstrate the following:
    • A genuine interest in the care of patients and demonstration of care ‘values’
    • Team working ability
    • Good verbal and written communication skills
    • IT experience eg. Word processing packages, email and using the internet
    • A high level of commitment due to the intensive nature of this academic and clinical degree programme
  • Successful applicants will be required to obtain registration as a student with General Optical Council in order to undertake this course

Access routes

SWAP Access courses

If you are eligible to undertake Scottish Wider Access Programmes (SWAP), please visit our SWAP access list for further information on grade profiles and available subjects.


ESIF Funded   Scottish Funding Council

Year 1 - CertHE

You will study the following modules:

Semester 1

  • Study skills for optometrists
  • Principles of optics
  • Structure and function of the visual pathway

Semester 2

  • Foundations of clinical practice
  • Introduction to optometry business skills
  • Introduction to clinical optometry

Year 2 - DipHE

You will study the following modules:

Semester 1

  • Clinical case studies 1
  • Clinical optometry 1

Semester 2

  • Clinical case studies 2
  • Clinical optometry 2

Year 3 - BSc

You will study the following modules:

Semester 1

  • Clinical case studies 3
  • Clinical optometry 3

Semester 2

  • Advanced optometric studies 1
  • Literature review optometry

Year 4 - BSc (Hons)

You will study the following modules in both Semesters 1 and 2:

  • Advanced optometric studies 2
  • Community optometry 

You will also complete a dissertation.

How will I study my course?

  • Full-time
  • You will learn through a combination of online study using the university's virtual learning environment (VLE), face-to-face lectures, tutorials, workshops and practical skills sessions
  • This will be supported by placement in community optometry (two weeks in years one - three, and 11 weeks in year four) and hospital optometry (one week in year three and one week in year four)

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 4 years, 40 hours per week 

Where can I study my course?

  • UHI House

UHI House is a state of the art facility located in the capital city of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness.

Start date

  • September


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
  2023-24 2024-25
Full-time (6 x 20 credit modules) per year £1,820 £1,820
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £915 £915
Part-time (unstructured) (per 20 credit module) £305 £305

Rest of UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and with a term-time address in Scotland studying this course full time, the following fees apply:

  Level 2023-24 2024-25
Full-time Year 1 CertHE £9,250 £9,250
Full-time Year 2 DipHE £9,250 £9,250
Full-time Year 3 Degree £9,250 £9,250
Full-time Year 4 Honours free free

4th year free only for students studying full-time, on continuous study, who have paid for the previous three years at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Part-time (per 20 credit module) - £1,542

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.

There are a number of funding options available to UK students to help you pay for your studies and your cost of living while studying.

International students

This course is not currently available for international students (including EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled status in the UK) requiring Student Route visa sponsorship to study here. For students living in the UK and assessed as international for fee status, the following fees will apply:

This includes EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

  2023-24 2024-25
Full-time per year (120 credit modules) per year £15,360 £15,996
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £7,680 £7,998
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £2,560 £2,666

A no fee increase guarantee is available for self-funding full-time and structured part-time rest of the UK, EU and international undergraduate students for continuous study for the same award, up to the permitted standard time limit for the relevant award.


UHI has a number of scholarships, bursaries, awards, and discretionary fund opportunities available to new and current students. Please use the A-Z of funds or use the filter to see which ones may be relevant to you. All students are welcome to apply.

Further information on funding your studies is also available, please see the attached link or contact the relevant UHI partner.

Additional costs

  • Travel and accommodation costs for clinical placement: placements will be located across the Scottish region
  • Clinical tunic and badge for wearing to clinical skills sessions (approx £25)
  • Optometry equipment (retinoscope, ophthalmoscope, volk lens) at an estimated cost of £1500 (the optometry team will provide opportunites for the purchase of discounted equipment directly from suppliers). Equipment optional in years one and two, but compulsory for year three
  • Supplementary items (pen torch, frame ruler, occluder etc) cost approximately £50 and are to be purchased prior to the commencement of clinical skills in semester two, year one
  • It is a requirement of your studies that you maintain student registration with the General Optical Council for the duration of your studies (currently £30 per year)
  • You will also be required to cover the cost of a PVG check (approx £60)

What can I do on completion of my course?

On successful completion you can progress onto a pre-registration year (College of Optometrists Scheme for Registration), after which you will be fully qualified as an optometrist and can use your skills in a variety of areas including community or private optometry practices or hospital optometry. Other career considerations may include:

  • Research
  • Optometric education
  • Charity work, helping to deliver eyecare services in developing countries


Can I progress into further study?

You may also wish to progress to a Masters or PhD, or undertake higher qualifications via the College of Optometrists.

Is there more information available online?

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Apply for Optometry BSc (Hons)

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2024

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.