Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, met staff and students on a visit to the University of Huddersfield when she officially opened the recently-refurbished Joseph Priestley Building.

The Duchess toured the Optometry Department and University Valli Opticians and also visited the Jo Cox More in Common Centre, a multi-faith centre for prayer, contemplation and community.

The Joseph Priestley Building has undergone an £18.2 million investment and the Duchess unveiled a plaque.

University Vice-Chancellor Prof Bob Cryan said: “It was an honour to welcome the Duchess of Edinburgh to the University of Huddersfield and to show her some of the many exciting developments on campus, including the Optometry Department and the public facing University Valli Opticians, a valuable collaboration which provides our students with real-life experience in a public clinic.”

During the visit Her Royal Highness, in her role as patron of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), was able to meet staff who had completed their CMI qualifications, alongside CMI chief executive Ann Francke.

This took place in the Jo Cox More in Common Centre, named after the late Batley & Spen MP, which is situated in the centre of the campus.

Under Prof Cryan’s leadership the university has a long-standing commitment to ensuring all its managers and leaders achieve Chartered Manager status and he has been chair of the CMI Board of Companions since 2019.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin was also presented with a CMI Companion certificate by the Duchess during the visit.

A tour of the Optometry Department followed, where Professor of Functional Heterocyclic Materials Chemistry Mark Heron discussed research within the School of Applied Sciences.

A demonstration took place of photochromic dyes changing colour under bright light irradiation – the kind that are used in photochromic ophthalmic sun lenses.

Prof John Siderov, Head of Department for Optometry, provided an introduction to optometry and the university’s clinical teaching space.

Her Royal Highness was shown an optical bench indicating how light is refracted and saw a demonstration of the principles in correcting faulty eyesight, as well as a video microscope that students use to view the eye for contact lenses fitting and checking the health of the eye.

This was followed by a tour of the Optometry Clinic including an explanation of assessments taking place for third year students and a chance to speak directly to a group of students to discuss the course and their future careers following graduation.

The Duchess of Edinburgh was able to witness first hand an ‘eye scan’ using the university’s state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanner and had the opportunity to take measurements using one of the other instruments – an autorefractor, which measures the ‘power’ of the eye.

Prof Siderov said: “We were extremely honoured and proud to welcome the Duchess of Edinburgh to spend time with some of our science students and to see the Optometry Department.

“We’re very proud of our optometry facilities, which provide our students with an unparalleled learning experience.”

Following an £18.2 million redevelopment the Joseph Priestley Building provides students and researchers with state-of-the-art laboratories. These new and improved facilities enable multi-disciplinary working and encourage the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

The Optometry Department is a major part of this redevelopment, taking up the whole of the ground floor of the Joseph Priestley (East) Building.

Here students can develop key clinical skills and benefit from the university’s partnership with Valli Opticians, a well-established independent opticians group within the local community.

Her Royal Highness spoke to director Moin Valli alongside Prof Michael Ginger, Dean of the School of Applied Sciences.

Following some final words from Prof Cryan, the Duchess officially opened the refurbished facilities in the Joseph Priestley Building by unveiling a commemorative plaque in the atrium of the building.