Foundation Degree Ophthalmic Dispensing

Year of entry

This course is delivered together with ABDO College.

Dispensing Opticians need to be able to interpret prescriptions (as issued by an optometrist or opthalmologist) to correct a refractive error of sight abnormality and use this information to advise patients on spectacles or contact lenses to improve their vision.

Based on their extensive practical skills, combined with applied technical and product knowledge, a Dispensing Optician will recommend the use of specific frame types, lens forms, tints, coatings etc, taking into account the patient's anatomical features to ensure a comfortable fit. It's also important that the patient is happy with the way their spectacles look, and that they fit their lifestyle needs. Dispensing Opticians therefore need excellent communication skills to work with their patients during consultations.

Dispensing Opticians work closely with optical laboratories who they commission to make up bespoke orders; and need to be able to carry out rigorousl checks against the original specifications before final fittings with the patient.

This course is specifically designed for people already employed as trainee Dispensing Opticians.

In Year One you'll 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 you'll 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 you'll be expected to manage your own learning and reflect upon this in your personal development portfolio, demonstrating a developing ability to communicate through a variety of media and improving your communication with others in the workplace, especially patients.

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.

On successul completion of the FD Ophthalmic Dispensing you can progress directly onto the BSc Hons. At this stage you'll be offered the option of two routes to FBDO and guidance to make an informed choice based on your 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.

NB: The Foundation Degree on its own does not confer licence to practice as a Dispensing Optician.

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.

The professional body for Dispensing Opticians in the UK is the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). Founded in 1986, ABDO 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. It 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. 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.

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). 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.


The 2016/17 tuition fees for this course are:

Full-time, per level:UK/EUOverseas
FD Yr 1



FD Yr 2



BSc top-up Yr 3 (continuing students)



BSc top-up Yr 3 (new entrants)



Tuition fees for all courses are payable on an annual basis, except where stated, and may be subject to an annual inflationary increase in every year where the course lasts more than one year. 

Students may self-fund their course or a sponsor may fund or part-fund. 

Further information

Additional course costs

Although we aim to minimise any additional costs to students over and above the course tuition fee, there will be some additional costs which students on courses are expected to meet. 

Read further information about the general additional costs which apply to courses at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Essays, open book tests, work based tasks, presentations, practical skills, reflective commentaries, pre- qualification portfolio, web-based project.

You'll need to submit 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 dli@abdo.org.uk

Fact file


  • 2 years full-time

Entry requirements

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



  • Not applicable

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Last edited: 14/03/2017 14:04:00