February 26, 2014 | POSTED BY | Articles, Optometry School
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Ever considered what down under and surrounds has to offer in the field of optometry school? Although likely to not be your first consideration, whether you’re a local or not, you’d be surprised at the opportunities Australia and New Zealand has to offer!

As I’m sure anyone who has considered choosing an optometry school knows, it can be a daunting decision. Whether you’re seriously considering optometry or are just curious as to what’s on offer in Australia and New Zealand, this article has a comprehensive list of schools, their perks, notable info, and some helpful advice from their students to get you through the labyrinth of decision!

Over the last few years in Australia there has been some exciting developments for prospective optometry students… here’s why:

  • Due to having the same accreditation council, students that graduate from either Australia (AUS) or New Zealand (NZ) can openly work between the two countries provided they register with the respective registration boards and Medicare[i] programs.
  • Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolAlso, there is an increasing elderly population and high prevalence of Trachoma within Australia’s Aboriginal population, hence, there is an ever-increasing need for more optometric health providers. This has prompted the opening of optometry schools at Flinders University in 2010 and Deakin University in 2012;
  •  In addition to those openings, a make over has been given to Melbourne University’s course, putting it in line with the course structure of what is standard in the US
  • Another important development is that all AUS and NZ optometry schools must now ensure therapeutic endorsement[ii] for their graduates.

Optometry school in Australia and New Zealand (and most University degrees in general) are quite different to that in America…

  • Here, five of the six optometry schools offer optometry as undergraduate degrees alone or combined bachelor and masters over a 3.5 – 5 year time period; even as short as 2.5 years should you have the appropriate criteria for graduate entry!
  • Hence, in AUS and NZ, at best, you’re able to become an optometrist straight out of high school in less time than it takes to even consider applying for optometry school in the US!
  • The consequence of this is that schools here cover all that basic anatomy, physics and chemistry within their first years of optometry school to get up to speed.
  • The exception to this rule is Melbourne University, the only optometry school offering a 4 year long Doctor of Optometry, which is a strictly postgraduate degree.

An overview of all Australian schools (Deakin University, Melbourne University, University of New South Wales, Flinders University, Queensland University of Technology) and New Zealand schools (Auckland University) are listed below, with basic info, photos and insight from current student or new grads, have a look!

Australian Schools

DEAKIN UNIVERSITY, Bachelor of Vision Science / Masters of Optometry

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolIt is Australia’s newest optometry school and has the shortest duration due to operating on a trimester basis. It’s based on the medicine school philosophy of teaching through problem and team-based learning and encouraging a lot of self-learning and exploration. It also places particular emphasis on admitting students from rural and regional areas to encourage them to return to their respective hometowns to practice. Due to being a new course, it has been granted conditional accreditation by OCANZ[iii].

  • Duration: 3.5 years undergraduate full time on campus.
  • Cost: Approx. $8,890 a year during the Bachelor and $23,860 per year during the Masters component.
  • Location: Waurn Ponds, Geelong, AUS
  • Clinical Experience: Short and long clinical placements are a part of the course with short (week long) placements commencing in second year of the Bachelor and then a 6-month placement at the end of the Masters component.
  • History: A new school in its second year of intake with first graduates in 2015.
  • Cohort Size: 80 students admitted each year
  • Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolStudent Societies: Deakin Optometry Student Society or DOSS
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: Completed year 12 with an ATAR[1] of aprox 92 (varies each year) and achieved 30 in English. Application is directly to Deakin or through Tertiary Admissions Council.
  • International students: Currently no international students are eligible to apply to the course but in the coming years this is likely to change.

Deakin University is the optometry school I chose to attend, in actual fact I didn’t know much about the other schools so an article like this would have helped me evaluate all my options. I decided to ask myself a few questions about my experiences at Deakin…

LEC: Why did you choose this optometry school compared to others in AUS NZ?


Australia/New Zealand Optometry School
LEC: Essentially I admired the novelty of Deakin’s course. I love trying things a little bit different and although being in the first intake of the new course has meant we’re guinea pigs, it is made a positive by having staff willing to build and mold the course around our opinions and suggestions of improvement. If I hadn’t have gotten into Deakin it’s likely I would have gone down the path of Biomed and the OD course at Melbourne, but I am so pleased I didn’t. It means I have an intensive schedule being at school most of the year, but it also means you never have
several months over summer to forget everything you’ve learnt! It stimulates you to be work ready for when you graduate. Due to being so short, after just two years, I am about to be granted a Bachelor’s degree!

LEC: What have you liked and disliked about the course?

LEC: I must say that I love having a small but not too small class (78 students). Also, due to being the first cohort we’re all very encouraging to one another and pretty excited to see where the rest of the course takes us. At times I Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolcurse that I don’t have long breaks but it is so exciting that sooner than I think I’ll be out there, in the wild, as a practitioner!

LEC: Recommendations and tips for students interested in your school?

LEC: Maybe this is more once you get into optometry school but get involved!! I helped set up the student society and tried to be involved in as much as possible and have made so many great contacts because of it! It’s shown me that there is amazing enthusiasm about my course (due to its novelty and our academics) by many companies and members of the optometric community. This has meant that I’ve been able to mingle and meet prominent optometrists and optometric representatives early on in my studies.

MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY, Doctor of Optometry

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolThe Melbourne OD is a masters level professional entry degree, it is internationally recognized and the first OD in the southern hemisphere. Clinical studies start in first year and gradually increase to full-time in final year.

  • Duration: 4 years (at least 3 years of undergraduate study must have been completed to be eligible) Full time on campus.
  • Cost: Approx. $34,400 per year
  • Scholarships: There are two scholarships available specifically for OD students thanks to International Postgraduate Coursework Awards (IPCA) and also a range of scholarships available through the Melbourne Graduate School of Science
  • Location: Parkville, Melbourne, AUS
  • Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolClinical Experience: A range of short placements locally from 2nd year, experience at the on campus eye clinic and a month long international placement in the final year. In 4th year, a one month international placement is compulsory.
  • History: Previously a 5 year bachelor of optometry degree, hence undergraduate entry. In line with Melbourne University’s change to a more American style system the course was revamped as a 4 year OD in 2011.
  • Cohort Size: 64 admissions every year
  • Student Societies: University of Melbourne Optometry Students’ Society, or UMOSS. Of particular significance, the society was started in 1948!
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: Applicants require an undergraduate degree with relevant biological science discipline subjects (it is recommended you complete Bachelor of Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolBiomed at MU although entry not guaranteed). In addition, a GAMSAT, MCAT or OAT, a written statement explaining your interest into the field and a demonstration of passing the universities’ language requirements. However, should you meet ATAR requirements once graduated from year 12 (above 96.00) you can qualify for guaranteed entry to Doctor of Optometry with conditions via a Melbourne Uni undergraduate degree.
  • International students: International students are eligible for entry to the course, the same criteria as above applies.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure an interview from anyone doing the OD course, but you can find a student profile and a small interview from someone at Melbourne University here: http://graduate.science.unimelb.edu.au/aaron-yu

UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, Bachelor of Optometry / Bachelor of Science

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolThis university offers a dual bachelor of optometry and science degree that is also recognized in “most parts of Asia.” UNSW also has extensive postgraduate and research options such as Masters in Optometry, Master of community eye health and PhD opportunities.

  • Duration: 5 years, at completion of course awarded both bachelors, as they’re simultaneous (not sequential) courses.
  • Cost: Approx. $10,085 per year
  • Location: Kensington Campus, Sydney, AUS
  • Clinical Experience: Clinical experience starts in year 4, specifically in the on-campus clinic, then 5th year is an external clinical experience.
  • Cohort Size: Approx. 80 admitted each year
  • Student Societies: University of New South Wales Optometry Society
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: ATAR assumed above 95 and UMAT Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolscores mid to high from year prior to application. Lodge applications through UAC. If not granted direct entry, one can commence Bachelor of Science at UNSW, majoring in Vision Science and transfer across with appropriate grades and an ATAR of over 90 and appropriate UMAT scores.
  • International students: International students are eligible to apply but must have appropriate year 12 qualification.

In a bid to get a student’s perspective on UNSW, I messaged a few friends of friends and was able to have a nice chat to Tan N, a new graduate and outgoing president of the optometry student society! Here’s what he had to say…

LEC: Why did you choose this optometry school compared to others in AUS NZ?

TN: I chose UNSW due to its proximity. The other optometry courses are all in other states, at the time there was only the option of QUT and UMelb. So it was very clear to me that if I were to study optometry it would be UNSW, Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolas I already live in Sydney. Never really considered duration or prestige, the original choice of UNSW was more a means to end of becoming an optometrist. It wasn’t until I was studying at UNSW that it was a world leading institution.

LEC: What have you liked and disliked about the course?

TN: Probably one of the dislikes of the course is the duration. It was hard for me to believe that a course which is solely on the eyes would take 5 years, whereas something like medicine, where you end up learning about the whole body, would take just as long as well. But by the end of the degree, I wouldn’t be able to know how to shorten the course, or cut anything out, so five years feels very justified. The academics were all very helpful and very interesting to have people who are world Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolrenowned academics teaching you and dedicating their time with you.

In fifth year we do a placement at ACO[iv], and it helped me compare the difference between learning environments. It was nice to see that the clinic is just as good, if not better, than other clinics in terms of accessibility to equipment and teaching supervisors. The cohort sizes have been considerably smaller compared to other courses like engineering and commerce, so it’s nice to have a very high school feel of seeing the same people again and again, and being able to have a strong sense of community. I’m under the impression the smaller cohort allows us to learn a lot better as well, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like if it was a larger cohort.

LEC: Recommendations and tips for students interested in your school?

TN: Mainly due to the location of the uni it is a bit hard to access if you’re travelling by public transport, it’ll eat a lot out of your time, so that’s something to prepare yourself for. Overall I think UNSW provided me a great learning experience, and there isn’t really much I’d change about it, other than possibly having cheaper uni food!

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY, Bachelor of Medical Science (Vision Science) / Master of Optometry

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolLinked in with Flinders University Centre for Ophthalmology and Eye and Vision research, this school aims to prepare graduates for rural and regional practice. It also has a special quota of intake allocated to students of indigenous, rural or regional background. Due to being a new course, it’s still subject to accreditation by OCANZ. Lastly, several postgraduate PhD options are offered.

  • Duration: Full time on campus 5 years or 8 years part time
  • Cost: Approx. $8,376 per year
  • Location: Bedford Park, Adelaide, AUS
  • Clinical Experience: Series of four 6 week long placements starting in 4th year in different settings such as at the university clinic, private ophthalmology clinics and public hospitals.
  • History: Started intake in 2010 in response to trying to fix the shortage of optometrists in Australia, allowing students from South Australia to study and therefore end up working close to home.
  • Cohort Size: 35 – 40 people admitted each year
  • Student Societies: A friend who attends Flinders reassures me there is a Flinders University Optometry Student Society but cannot confirm if mythical or not.
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: ATAR at least 95, UMAT and assumed knowledge of stage 2 chemistry and physics. Also able to complete 2 years of Bachelor of Medical Science at Flinders University and if eligible can transfer to Optometry course.
  • International students: International students not eligible for admission.

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolA mutual friend of mine, Claire V, recently got into Flinders and I asked her a few questions about her experience…

LEC: Why did you choose this optometry school compared to others in AUS NZ?

CV: I wanted to attend Flinders because the course is accredited and is an up-and-coming course at the university, with a brand new optometry facility having been constructed (completed this year). I also liked the idea of moving to Adelaide, a city I had never been to prior to university.

LEC: What have you liked and disliked about the course? Perhaps talk about the duration, cohort size, cost and clinical experience.

CV: The length of the course is a challenge, as I have moved a long way from home to attend university, and a five-year course is a long time. However, I do like the Flinders system of clinical placement, in that all students are Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolrequired to do both a city and country placement. I also like that my cohort size is small (36 people in my class)!!

LEC: Recommendations and tips for students interested in your school?

CV: If you’re interested in attending Flinders, come along to open days. Open days are the best way to gain information about courses, see the campus, meet the lecturers, get a feel for the university, and see if it is a place you could see yourself studying. Also get into contact with the faculty directly either via email or the phone, and ask as many questions as you can think of. The more you know, the more informed your decision will be!

QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Optometry

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolCompletion of the course awards dual Bachelor and Masters. QUT prides themselves on intimate class sizes and their recently launched additional Therapeutics course.

  • Duration: 5 years full time on campus
  • Cost: Approx. $13,100 per year for international students and approx. $4,400 per year for AUS and NZ students
  • Scholarships: Vice-Chancellors Scholarships though the university
  • Location: Kelvin grove, Brisbane, AUS
  • Clinical Experience: In final years there are several units dedicated to clinical externships
  • Cohort Size: approx. 55 admitted per year
  • Student Societies: Queensland Optometry Student Society
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: ATAR of 98 and assumed knowledge (2 years worth) of Physics, Math’s, English and Chemistry
  • International students: International students are eligible to study Optometry at QUT ensuring they meet the entry standards that vary from country to country. Check their website for more details.

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolAt a conference I met one of the Co-chair’s for the QUT optometry society, Allana N. She just graduated and let me ask her a few questions about her time at QUT…

LEC: Why did you choose this optometry school compared to others in AUS NZ?

AN: To be honest, I believe that a lot of students chose QUT because they did not want to travel interstate.  We have many students from all over but hardly any interstate students. I personally wanted to go to uni at either of Brisbane’s major universities and basically just picked a course based on what they offer!

If I really think about it, cost wasn’t a big factor because of HECS[v], but I liked the fact that I got to be a part of the 5 year course because it meant I didn’t have to go back and do the Grad Dip of Ocular therapeutics (Graduates in 2013 are the first to complete the 5 year program at QUT).  We have a fairly new clinic, which I got to see when I was in high school, which made it also an appealing course.  Another factor I guess is that Optometry is one of Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schoolthe only ATAR score 98-99 degrees at QUT, thus making most of the students really good candidates for the Vice-Chancellor Scholarships that QUT gives out… probably about 25% of my grade ended up with a Vice-Chancellor scholarship so that has definitely helped!!

LEC: What have you liked and disliked about the course?

AN: We have some great great great lecturers and clinical supervisors that many of us have become close with and that we will be able to comfortably call on as mentors once out in the real world. We also have a class of 55 approximately and we are all very close, so that is another great thing I love, we are also really good friends with a lot of the younger years.  Our student society events have really encouraged this mingling and I have definitely benefitted from knowing students from years above as well.  It has been great to discover that the Optometry world is so close as well.  Some of the staff at QUT have been here a long time and even optometrists that we meet that graduated yonks[vi] ago still know the staff that we know today… I guess the history thing is pretty cool in that respect.

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolWe’re given plenty of opportunity to go on clinical placement with optometrists and ophthalmologists as well as have many guest speakers come to talk to us.  We also get opportunities to go on vision screenings organized by the uni to schools and retirement homes. Many students have also had the opportunity to take on some research assistant work or demonstrating jobs while studying so that is also really cool.

LEC: Recommendations and tips for students interested in your school?

AN:

  • Have a tour around the campus and have a look at the clinic (meet the reception staff of the clinic they are LOVELY)
  • Even get your eyes tested at the clinic to see what the students get to do and meet some of the supervisors
  • Talk to one of the students, particularly our student society executives to get a more personalized run down on the uni, and tips about study as well as getting involved into optometry student life
  • Students spend their first year at the Garden’s Point campus, which is near the city, but then the rest of their years mostly at Kelvin Grove.  The clinic is at Kelvin Grove and is surrounded by the ‘Urban Village’, which is also nice to visit with many coffee shops and cafes.

New Zealand Schools

AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY, Bachelor of Optometry

This is New Zealand’s only school of Optometry, and they’re particularly proud of their new state-of-the-art teaching clinic. Auckland University has really great optometry specific scholarship programs that are for all eligible students in all parts of the course. Also, the Auckland Optometry Department puts emphasis on giving responsibility to students to ensure they plan and attend several social events to enable close friendships and good working relationships.

  • Duration: 1 year Bachelor of biomedical science and 4 years Bachelor of optometry, full time on campus.
  • Cost: Approx. $8,000 per year plus an advised approx. $10,000 equipment and textbook cost over the 4 years.
  • Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolAustralia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolScholarships: Several scholarships, ranging from $50 to $1000, are available specifically within the Optometry course.
  • Location: Auckland, NZ
  • Clinical Experience: Placements are undertaken in fourth and fifth years, then an additional 3-week externship is undertaken in fifth year.
  • History: Started in 1965 and is the first school to offer therapeutic endorsement in AUS NZ area.
  • Cohort Size: 60 admitted each year, 5 Maori or Pacific Islander.
  • Student Societies: New Zealand Optometry Student Society
  • Pre-Requisites / Entry Requirements / Application Process: One year of Bachelors of Biomedical Science or equivalent, ensuring you achieve completion of several science and medicine subjects then apply for transfer into Bachelor of Optometry. Graduate entry is applicable if you have adequate grade point average and academic background.
  • International Students: International students admitted, entry specific on a case by case basis, contact University of Auckland for more info.

At an awesome conference earlier this year I met Jacob B, a fresh graduate from University of Auckland and the outgoing president of the NZ optometry student society. I asked him a few questions about his experiences at University of Auckland…

LEC: Why did you choose this optometry school compared to others in AUS NZ?

JB: I chose the Uni of Auckland as it is the only place to do optometry in NZ, I never really looked into options outside of New Zealand. I could have applied for an Australian Uni but didn’t feel this was necessary. I got into Australia/New Zealand Optometry Schooloptometry via an intermediate year of biomedical science and since have completed 4 years of optometry, so 5 years total. The application process was quite easy, with it done near the end of your intermediate year.

LEC: What have you liked and disliked about the course?

JB: I have really enjoyed the clinical side such as seeing patients and performing techniques on classmates. It was been quite heavily clinical for the last 2 years or so and really gives you a good feel for being an optometrist. I also really like the externship of 3 weeks we have in our final year to an optometry practice other than the university to get a good look at how practices work. I think maybe the cohort is a touch big, the teaching facilities are fine but in NZ it turns out not everyone can get a job with 45-50 graduates so it seems a little unnecessary to have a class of this size.

LEC: I had no idea there isn’t that much demand for optometrists in NZ!! How many come to AUS? Where else do they go?

JB: Yeah I think there are probably around 30-35 spots on average in NZ a year, this year and in previous years around half the class or more go to Aussie! A lot of people in my year are going to Adelaide, AUS.

LEC: So AUS is the only option?

Australia/New Zealand Optometry SchoolJB: Yeah, although you can sit extra exams and go to Britain, Canada and some other places, which I know happens occasionally.

LEC: Recommendations and tips for students interested in your school?

JB: I would recommend taking some science subjects at high school and work hard in the intermediate year, as this is the year that grades really do matter (usually B+ or A- average to get into optometry).

 

So there you have it, your beginners guide to all things optometry school in AUS and NZ! Do you have any experience with any of these schools or any questions? We’d love to hear from students, future, past or present at schools in AUS NZ or those interested in learning more, so don’t hesitate to comment below!!

*This is just an overview, for more details contact the respective schools individually. I’ve tried to ensure all details are as factual as possible, if you find an error please let us know!

Photos thanks to


[i] Medicare is an Australian government funded health care system. Under Medicare every Australian resident is eligible for a wealth of optometric consultations free of charge.

[ii] Therapeutic endorsement is the qualification granted to optometrists able to prescribe therapeutic drugs, such as glaucoma medication. It is a reasonably new initiative in Australia.

[iii] Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand, or OCANZ, is the board in charge of accrediting optometry schools.

[iv] ACO: Australian College of Optometry, a government funded community health clinic and teaching school.

[v] HECS: Australian Government initiative where you delay the payment of your course fee’s until you earn over a certain amount.

[vi] Australian slang for a long time ago