Ophthalmic Dispensing BSc (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)



Intermediate awards: CertHE, DipHE


Improve someone’s vision and you’ll change their life. Learn how to dispense, fit and supply spectacles with our Cambridge-based Ophthalmic Dispensing three year degree, accredited by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians. You’ll find industry-standard equipment in our dedicated dispensing laboratory and eye clinic, where the focus is on practical application and problem-solving, including how to run a successful practice. Our award-winning lecturer practitioners ensure the course stays up to date and relevant to modern practice.

Full description


We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.

When you graduate you can apply for jobs as a pre-registration dispensing optician. The preregistration period prepares you for your ABDO final practical examinations to enter onto the General Optical Council Register.

Once registered you can apply for jobs as a dispensing optician or a managing dispensing optician, and you can also specialise in the fields of contact lenses or low vision. By choosing to do further studies you may also train as an orthoptist or an optometrist.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Optometry, Medical and Life Sciences
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in courses related to Optometry, Medical Science and Life Sciences. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including thinking critically, researching and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate numeracy and ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. In addition to these fundamental study skills, Students will be given an introduction to the various scientific disciplines underpinning the life sciences. Fundamental mathematical skills will be covered in order to support students’ other subjects and give them confidence in manipulating data. Students will be introduced to molecular and cellular biology, and how these fields are applied to real-world investigations. Students will also study the biology of micro and macro organisms, with reference to both human and animal structures. Students will be introduced to the core concepts of chemistry, with a particular focus on organic chemistry, and will also be given a grounding in the core principles of physics, applied to living organisms. The module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Critical Thinking; Maths for Scientists; Cellular Biology; Biology – Physiology; Chemistry; Physics for Life Sciences.

Year one, core modules

  • Geometrical Optics
    You will be introduced to the concepts of ophthalmic optics along with the basic principles of geometrical optics and ophthalmic lenses. You will learn about the relationship between how light travels through differing media and therefore how basic ophthalmic lenses are used to correct vision. You will look at the laws of reflection and refraction and how these apply to ophthalmic lenses. Our module is recognised by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians and successful completion will allow you to be exempt from the part one theoretical examinations which go towards the professional qualification.
  • Introduction to Ophthalmic Dispensing with Mathematics
    This module consists of a series of lectures, exercises and practical demonstrations designed to introduce the student to the theoretical and practical principles of ophthalmic dispensing. You will carry out a series of practical exercises for formative assessment in preparation for the professional body's Preliminary Qualifying examination. You will consider modern ophthalmic dispensing in UK ophthalmic/optometric practice. The content reinforces both ophthalmic lens and optics theory studied elsewhere and provides a foundation to the more advanced practical aspects of ophthalmic dispensing. The knowledge and skills gained from this module will support, assist and provide you with the fundamental practical aspects of ophthalmic dispensing to be used within their workplace.
  • Introduction to Practice Management with Communication Skills
    This module is designed to start the student thinking about the future and the roles that the student may find themselves in once a qualified registered eye care professional. It will investigate the structure of an optometric practice along with the support that the professional can expect to receive from the various professional bodies (e.g. ABDO) and the regulatory body (GOC). It will look at the basis of working in a safe environment and the ways and means of controlling and monitoring this environment to ensure that there is sufficient safety for staff, colleagues and patients/customers. The module is designed to be one where the students are expected to bring their own experiences to the debates into what constitutes a good practice. Looking at examples of good and bad practice will form discussion forums in the seminars and exploration of how to prevent reoccurrence of negative experiences and bolster the positive experiences will be investigated. Visits from the ABDO and the GOC will take place to introduce the student to the professional and legal issues surrounding practice management and interactions between staff and patients. The running of an optometric practice is complex and the module is designed to start the student down the road of discovery into the running of the practice. Communication is the key to a successful practice and this module is designed to introduce the student to the techniques of using good, effective and disciplined communications to effect a smooth running operation. Verbal and non-verbal communications will be developed, looking at body language and facial expressions as well as gestures, as clues to meaning.
  • Introduction to Ophthalmic Lenses
    We will introduce you to the concepts of mathematical ophthalmic lens parameters along with the basic principles of ophthalmic lenses. You will learn about the relationship between how light travels through differing media and therefore how basic ophthalmic lenses are used to correct vision. You will study the laws of reflection and refraction and how these apply to ophthalmic lenses. The effects of changing a lens parameter from a mechanical and an optical consideration along with the effect that the patent will perceive will be investigated. This module is recognised by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) and successful completion will give you exemption from the part one theoretical examinations which will go towards the professional qualification.
  • Study Skills for Dispensing Opticians
    This module will enable the student to gain transferable academic skills that will assist with the transition in to professional practice. The module will introduce the student to look at examples of good and bad practice with respect to academic performance and academic honesty with a view to prevent re-occurrence of negative experiences and bolster the positive experiences of assessment and development. The student will start on the journey of professional and collegiate working in a manner that will be carried forward to practice management modules throughout the course.
  • Optics of the Eye
    A module designed to introduce the student to the human eye and its components. This module will give a base level of understanding of the eye and how it works, in preparation for second year modules, and to assist in relating the spectacle refraction to the eye and its structure. Basic Visual Optics principles will be explained and relationships between geometric optics and visual optics will be explored. The student will be encouraged to engage in class based experiments and seminartype sessions where the eye is explored in relation to how as dispensing opticians the vision can be monitored, corrected, and how advice can be given to patients in a real case scenario. The student will explore ways of explaining to the lay person the relevance of ocular conditions and how the vision will or will not be effected by these conditions. Basic causes of myopia, hypermetropia, astigmatism and presbyopia will be explored. Basic understandings of the common ocular conditions and diseases will be sought in a formal lecture with further reading being necessary for the full and meaningful understanding of the topic. The module is designed to give the student the basic anatomical and visual optical structure of the eye and adnexa so that they can successfully discuss with a patient the ocular condition and the causes of visual abnormalities. It is designed to allow the student to communicate in an effective manner in a real patient scenario. The assessment of this module is in two parts, firstly the student will be asked to produce an A3 sized poster for a high street practice which could be displayed in the waiting area, that informs the patient of a topic relevant to the eye. The second element is a written assignment where the student will be asked to provide an informed piece of work on one of the key learning elements.

Year two, core modules

  • Further Ophthalmic Lenses
    This module builds on the basic principles of ophthalmic lenses previously studied in Introduction to Ophthalmic Lenses. Your knowledge and understanding of ophthalmic lenses will be extended and will allow you to apply theoretical principles to practical situations and to dispense complex prescriptions and special types of optical appliances within the workplace. You will be assessed by a written exam and by a written assignment. You will also research and present information on Progressive Power Lenses, in the form of mini project in which you will consider lens designs, uses, availability and adaptability. The topics contained within this module include those required by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians for exemption from the theoretical examination in Ophthalmic Lenses. It also covers elements on the General Optical Council's core competency number 4, optical appliances.
  • Human and Ocular Anatomy
    This module will provide information about the principles of human anatomy, physiology and the significance of ocular diseases. It also examines the histology and gross structure of the human eye with an emphasis on the relationship between each structure and its function. This will provide you with a basis for understanding the functional anatomy of the eye and visual physiology, as required by a dispensing optician. It also includes an overview of the use of ophthalmic drugs and preparations encountered in ophthalmic practice. These are essential for effective communication to both the Optometrist and the patient in an accurate and authoritative manner.
  • Communication Skills in the Optical Sector
    Communication is the key to a successful practice and this module will introduce you to the techniques of using good, effective and disciplined communications to effect a smooth running operation. You will develop your verbal and non-verbal communications, looking at body language and facial expressions as well as gestures, as clues to meaning. Discussions and seminars will be held on controlling a conversation, and calming down the irate patient. You will learn how to take accurate case history from patients with various ophthalmic problems and pathological conditions, and how to deal effectively with patients concerns and complaints by extracting the relevant information from a patient as to what is the problem actually is. We will discuss the professional approach to the complainant by separating a complaint against the practice from a complaint against the individual, and identifying ways not to take complaints personally.
  • Refractive Management and Methods of Ocular Examination
    Gain the knowledge of the optical principles and methods of ocular examination to become confident in effective optometrist and patient communication. Begin with a discussion of various 'optical models' that have been proposed to define emmetropia, ametropia and astigmatism. Learn the formation of the retinal image and practical applications of spectacle magnification and the components of a routine eye examination, including both objective and subjective methods of assessment. You will also cover the principles and applications of ophthalmic instruments, the basis of visual perception and binocular vision.
  • Introduction to Contact Lens Practice
    You will cover the development and legal aspects of contact lens fitting with a special regard to dispensing opticians. The assessment of a patient's suitability for contact lens wear and the fitting of soft, rigid & scleral lenses are also outlined. Emphasis is given to the on-going aftercare of the contact lens wearer & the complications which contact lens wear may induce. The module introduces you to instrumentation used in contact lens practice, the information that it yields during the initial assessment and during the subsequent after care visits. Modalities of lens wear is considered, along with the use of contact lens solutions, stains, and the role of topical pharmaceutical ophthalmic drugs. Satisfactory performance in this module will be required to gain registration as a Dispensing Optician, and addresses core competency Number 5, outlined by the General Optical Council and provides exemption from the ABDO contact lens theory exam. When you complete the module you will be in a strong position to consider undertaking your final professional examination in this field.
  • Low-Vision Management and Assessment
    You will look at the incidence and causes of low vision and their effects on vision. The term 'low vision' is defined clinically and legally together with other related terms. Methods of assessment of the visual function are studied including the use of various testing charts for distance and near, and the effects of illumination, contrast and glare. The significance of the current refraction and methods of verification are explained. The significance of visual field loss is examined and the effects of pathological conditions on the visual field. The estimation and assessment of magnification values for all distances, and the supply of suitable optical and/or non-optical monocular and binocular appliances are discussed. You will develop an understanding of the need for multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to the management and psychology of low vision, including arrangements for after-care and the engagement of social services, support groups, specialist trainers and teachers.

Year three, core modules

  • Advanced Ophthalmic Lenses
    We have designed this module to take you to the next step in spectacle lens design and spectacle lens technology. You will gain an understanding of and be familiar with the design, materials and optical principles of spectacles lenses. We will also give you the skills to dispense spectacles, instruct patients in their safe and efficient use, monitor progress with the appliance and assist patients to achieve maximum visual performance. There will be particular focus on the components of lens design that are new to the profession or are likely to be developed in the future. You will also benefit from formal and informal sessions with spectacle lens manufacturers as the latest technology is rolled out.
  • Final Practical Dispensing
    This module will prepare you for working in practice and the real patient experience. You will develop skills and techniques needed to successfully problem solve for the patient with fitting and/or visual problems from a pair of spectacles. You will learn about the paediatric and the geriatric patient and methods of dealing with each is explored in detail, along with the legal and ethical aspects of registrants when dealing with vulnerable patients (it will be a requirement that an up-to-date DBS certificate is held). You will gain experience in problem-solving, identifying needs and matching solutions to all areas of practical dispensing. PEPs and the legislation of PEPs is covered in great detail along with full EN standards and consequences of failing to comply with them.
  • Practice Management with Ocular Pathology
    Focus on the social, environmental, ethical and financial aspects of dispensing and prepare for working in practice. Gain real patient experience along with staff management, health and safety and ethical procedures. You will explore recruitment and staff engagement staff progression and practice structure, along with legal and ethical aspects of practice management and small business principles. Discuss professional conduct and aspects of good practice along with GOC disciplinary methods and procedures and establish practice management, patient handling and liaison techniques. Guest lectures include The General Optical Council Fitness to Practice committee, who will present the basis of the investigation process and the possible outcomes of investigations and penalties.
  • Vocational, Recreational and Paediatric Dispensing
    Gain a clear understanding of applied ophthalmic dispensing by studying topics in illumination, building regulations and visual ergonomics. Explore optometric aspects of providing occupational health care, ocular hazards in the work place and during recreation and link this to ocular injuries in the workplace and emergency procedures. You will look at vision standards for road transport drivers, plus specialist needs pertaining to aviation, maritime services and the military services. Additionally, you will addresses the legal and ethical requirements of the ophthalmic dispenser within a business framework. You will study professional practice legislation combined with the skills and competencies needed to run a successful business and provide contemporary eye care services to the public. You will address visual and safety needs of the professional and recreational sports person. You will also cover the fine details of paediatric dispensing from the very small infant showing an ability to communicate effectively with the child and their carer. You will gain an understanding of paediatric refractive prescribing and management decisions. At the end of this module you will be expected to demonstrate: The ability to advise on and measure for the most appropriate paediatric frames; the ability to advise and measure for the most appropriate lens choice.
  • Undergraduate Major Project
    You will create in a substantial piece of individual research and/or product development work, focused on a topic of your choice. You could choose your topic from a variety of sources including research groups, previous/current work experience, your current employer, a suggestion from your tutor or a topic you are specifically interested in. You will identify problems and issues, conduct literature reviews, evaluate information, investigate and adopt suitable development methodologies, determine solutions, develop hardware, software and/or media artifacts as appropriate, process data, critically appraise and present your finding using a variety of media. Regular meetings with your project supervisor will ensure your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.


Throughout the course, we’ll use a variety of methods to assess your progress. Besides practical, written and multiple-choice exams, we’ll use assignments, logbooks, lab reports, formal reports, case studies, presentations and class-based tests.

Where you'll study

Your faculty

The Faculty of Science & Engineering is one of the largest of the four faculties at Anglia Ruskin University. Whether you choose to study with us full-time or part-time, on campus or at a distance, there’s an option whatever your level – from a foundation degree, BSc, MSc, PhD or professional doctorate.

Whichever course you pick, you’ll gain the theory and practical skills needed to progress with confidence. Join us and you could find yourself learning in the very latest laboratories or on field trips or work placements with well-known and respected companies. You may even have the opportunity to study abroad.

Everything we do in the faculty has a singular purpose: to provide a world-class environment to create, share and advance knowledge in science, technology and engineering fields. This is key to all of our futures.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

Additional costs

General Optical Council fees - £30
Association of British Dispensing Opticians fees - £100
Facial gauge - £60
PD ruler - £20
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – Enhanced check £44

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

UK students (and EU students in the 2020/21 academic year) can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments

International students

You can pay your tuition fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees


We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

Funding for UK & EU students

Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes EU students starting a course in September 2020 or January 2021.

Government funding includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a range of ARU scholarships, which can provide extra financial support while you’re at university.

Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of on-campus and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. A small number of our courses require additional technical specifications or specialist materials. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning. Our website also has general information for new students about starting university in September 2020.

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email answers@anglia.ac.uk for further information.

All tariff points must come from A levels. Points from AS levels cannot be counted towards the total tariff points required for entry to this course.

Students must be able to demonstrate capability in all the relevant General Optical Council (GOC) competencies at the end of their training. In a small number of cases, a disability or health condition might make it impossible for a student to meet the requirements of a training course or a competency required by the GOC. If you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact our Disability and Dyslexia Support team (disability@anglia.ac.uk), or our Admissions team (admissions@anglia.ac.uk) where we can refer your query to the course leader.

Further details can be found here: https://www.optical.org/en/Education/Careers/index.cfm.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

Apply now

UK and EU students

Clearing places available – apply online

UCAScode: B590

Apply through Clearing

UK and EU students

Call our Clearing line

01245 686868

International students

Applicants from outside the UK and EU, apply to ARU

Apply direct

Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online