Courses and Prospectus - Foundation Degrees

Ophthalmic Dispensing

About the Course

Foundation Degree


Two years full-time


The role of the Dispensing Optician involves interpretation of the prescription (as issued by an optometrist or ophthalmologist) to correct a refractive error or sight abnormality and correctly translate this information to provide the patient with suitable advice regarding the supply of optical appliances (e.g. spectacles or contact lenses) that will provide optimum vision in accordance with the vocational and lifestyle needs of the wearer. Based on their extensive practical skills, combined with applied technical and product knowledge, this enables the Dispensing Optician to recommend the use of specific frame types, lens forms, tints, coatings etc. while also taking into account the patients anatomical features to ensure a comfortable fit. Also vitally important is the finished aesthetic appearance and visual performance that must meet the wearer’s expectations and demands. Dispensing Opticians therefore need to employ excellent communication skills, during patient consultation, to obtain the necessary information that will enable them to provide bespoke solutions. Dispensing Opticians work closely with optical laboratories who they commission to make up the resultant orders; completed orders are subsequently rigorously checked, against the original specifications, upon receipt at the practice prior to final fitting.

The professional body for Dispensing Opticians in the UK is the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). Founded in 1986 the Association of British Dispensing Opticians seeks to maintain and develop the practice of ophthalmic dispensing to the highest standards through the professional conduct and competence of its members for the benefit of the public. The Association also aims to support, protect and advance the character, status and interests of Dispensing Opticians, to encourage suitable standards of education in dispensing optics and establish, continue and adjudicate a system of qualifying and higher examinations. The ABDO sets the examination syllabus and awards a Fellowship Diploma (FBDO) that enables successful candidates to register with the General Optical Council (GOC) upon qualification. The ABDO qualification is approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) at level 6.

The ABDO also enters into arrangements with any authorities that may seem conducive to the interests of the ABDO and its members and to provide the legislative, public bodies and others, facilities of conferring with, and ascertaining the views of, persons engaged in the optical dispensing profession. It offers a wide and varied range of benefits and support services to its members, including advice, guidelines and the provision of meaningful and relevant methods of CET (Continuing Education and Training). The ABDO currently represents over 5,300 qualified Dispensing Opticians in the United Kingdom, (200 overseas), some 2,000 students worldwide, and over 600 Associate members.

In 2000 ABDO established the ABDO College at Godmersham, near Canterbury, for the purpose of training Dispensing Opticians to the highest standards. The ABDO College works in conjunction with Canterbury Christ Church University to provide the Foundation Degree course in Ophthalmic Dispensing.

Content and Structure 

In Year One students will be introduced to:

  • the basic optical principles of the nature of light, formation of images produced by plane surfaces and the behaviour of light when meeting different media at interfaces that are not plane
  • the structure of the eye, vision, the colour sense and photometry
  • the form and material properties of ophthalmic lenses and the behaviour of plano-prisms and prismatic lenses
  • the interrelationships of frame and facial measurements
  • communication with patients and a patient-focused approach to decision making utilising information in the workplace to support professional development in theory and practice.

In Year Two students will be introduced to:

  • the legal, professional and ethical responsibilities of optical team staff
  • a detailed knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the human eye
  • critical review and analysis related to work practices
  • optical considerations of complex prescriptions and the solutions that can be adopted when dispensing
  • aspects of dispensing related to patients in the practice setting and the use of visual task analysis
  • the development of critical skills necessary to evaluate evidence underpinning practice
  • application of knowledge and skills to review and analyse work-based issues.

In year one there will be more focus on the essential study skills perspective but in year two the focus will be encouraging and commenting on the learner’s skill to engage in academic discussion and critically use the relevant literature. At both levels the learners will be expected to manage their own learning and reflect upon this in their personal development portfolio, demonstrate a developing ability to communicate through a variety of media and to improve their communication with others in the workplace, especially with patients.

Students successfully completing FD Ophthalmic Dispensing will be permitted to progress directly onto the BSc Hons (subject to validation) in line with current University conventions. Students at this stage will be offered the option of two routes to FBDO and guidance to make an informed choice based on their experience and marks at levels one and two. The Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing will also articulate with related higher education study in optometry or orthoptics and for progression into the wider health and social care environment. The Foundation Degree on its own does not confer licence to practice as a Dispensing Optician.


On the Foundation Degree programme there are varied methods of assessment that include the following:

  • Progressive open book tests (unit assessments)
  • Work based tasks
  • Written essays
  • Poster presentations
  • Practical skills
  • Reflective commentaries
  • Pre-Qualification Portfolio
  • Web-based project

Important Information


Applicants must be employed as a trainee dispensing optician, usually for a minimum of 30 hours per week, under the supervision of a suitably qualified professional and have the active support of their employer.

Students must become members of the ABDO and register their details with the GOC prior to commencing the course.

The application procedure will require the submission of the following completed documentation:

  • ABDO College application form
  • ABDO membership form
  • Canterbury Christ Church University Registration Form
  • GOC student registration form
  • Criminal Records Bureau form
  • Evidence of cover by professional indemnity insurance
  • Evidence of prior certificated or experiential learning (if appropriate)
  • Supervisors’ declaration of support
  • Student learning agreement
  • Plagiarism policy student declaration

All of the material needed to apply for the Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing is available by contacting:

ABDO College Distance Learning Institute on 01227 733901 or

Employment Opportunities

The Foundation Degree programme equips optical practice support staff with the skills they need to be effective, reflective practitioners in the modern practice, with opportunities to progress through life-long learning.

There is a growing demand for Dispensing Opticians throughout the UK and in many counties overseas. Dispensing Opticians can acquire specialist skills in Low Vision or Contact Lenses by undertaking the honours courses offered by the ABDO. Career opportunities also exist to develop business skills in marketing and practice management. Many Dispensing Opticians seek to run their own business by establishing or acquiring their own practice.