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Outlook for eye care a whole lot brighter

31 January 2008

A top rated School in the capital is celebrating the official opening of its flagship facility today (Friday 8 February 2008).

The new £21M home of the Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Wales’ only provider of academic optometry and vision sciences, represents the largest single investment in eye care anywhere in the UK.

Officially opened by the First Minister Rhodri Morgan AM in Cardiff University’s 125th Anniversary year, it provides the University and Wales with one of the most advanced facilities in which to further understanding of the causes, prevention and treatment of a wide spectrum of vision conditions.

About two million people in the UK have significant sight loss, of which 100,000 are living in Wales. Of those aged over 75 with a visual impairment, about half have treatable conditions such as cataracts or refractive error; it is also estimated that every day in the UK another 100 people start to lose their sight.

The University’s new state-of-the-art building on Maindy Road, Cardiff has for the first time brought teaching, clinical practice and research under one roof. The increased capacity will enable the School to undertake more pioneering research that has global significance into such conditions as age-related macular degeneration (the major cause of blindness in the elderly), glaucoma, diabetic complications, cataracts and myopia (short-sightedness), low vision and binocular vision.

The public Eye Clinic has also doubled in size and specialist clinical services for patients across Wales who have special educational needs, diabetes, glaucoma, epilepsy, partial sight and blindness have been enhanced as a result.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "It’s plain to see that in the 125th anniversary year of Cardiff University, this excellent new facility will further the University’s reputation as a centre of excellence for research; not only in Wales and the UK but in the world a whole.

"The significant breakthroughs that the School has made in the past are testimony to the dedication and professionalism of the staff here and with these excellent new facilities I can see a bright future ahead for them, maybe for another 125 years!"

Already considered to be the leader in its field, the School attained the highest possible ratings for both its research and teaching quality in recent inspections. The new building offers teaching facilities for more than 300 undergraduates and postgraduate students, as well as housing cutting-edge laboratories and clinical suites for research, professional optometric training and the continuing professional development for optometrists and general practitioners.

Tim Wess, head of Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences said:
"This is a really exciting time for the School and for our patients. The new facility means we are able to take a more collaborative approach to our work, continue to attract and train the next generation of optometric professionals, and vital funding. We are also able to offer more world-leading vision science researchers a state-of-the-art home from which to advance the kind of work that could change people’s lives."

Funding for the new building represents a joint investment by the University and the Science Research Investment Fund. The latter is a joint initiative between the UK Funding Councils and the Department for Innovation, University and Skills (formerly the Office of Science and Technology) to provide capital investment to strengthen the international competitiveness of the UK’s Science Base.

Speaking at the event, Cardiff University Vice chancellor Dr David Grant CBE, said: "This twenty-one million-pound facility is the result of years of work by many colleagues and University partners. Together they have overcome many challenges to provide Wales with one of the most modern and advanced university centres for optometry not only in the UK but worldwide. I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment and to congratulate them on their achievement."


Notes to Editors:

Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences
• The School’s extensively equipped Eye Clinic, ‘CU Optometrists’ allow patients to choose to be seen by a resident optometrist or a supervised final year optometry student. Eye tests are free in the student clinics and the public can help train the next generation of optometrists.
• A £1.35m Medical Research Council grant to Professor Keith Meek and Dr Andrew Quantock of Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences will allow the team to discover precisely how the arrangement of collagen allows the cornea to be transparent. Working with colleagues across the globe the team will examine how certain treatments act to restore vision where it has been lost.
• A Welsh- Language sight test developed as a third year student project in the school was adopted across Wales after winning the 2006 Welsh Language in Healthcare awards. Before undergraduates Amy Carew and Richard Davies, with their supervisors Maggie Woodhouse and Barbara Ryan developed the bilingual test, no Welsh language sight test was available anywhere in the country.
• The School is considered the leader in its field in the UK having attained the highest ratings for both research (Grade 5*) and teaching quality ("Excellent") in the most recent Government assessments.

Cardiff University
• Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES).
• 2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.
• Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.
• Visit the University website at:

Further Information:

For more information contact:
Lowri Jones
Public Relations and Communications
Cardiff University
T: 02920 870 995