The ESR: Understanding the future of optometric education

In February 2021 the GOC's Council approved new outcomes, standards and Quality Assurance and Enhancement (QAE) methods for registration education and qualification of optometrists and dispensing opticians. Here, we start to tackle some frequently asked questions about the ESR.

We'll add more information to these pages over the coming months to keep you informed and up-to-date.

What changes have the GOC made?

At its meeting in February this year the GOC Council approved new 'outcomes, standards and Quality Assurance and Enhancement  (QAE) methods' for registration education and qualification of optometrists and dispensing opticians. The new standards shift from focusing on the assessment of practical competencies, to learning outcomes that assess professional behaviours and attributes. This new approach is similar to current practice in other healthcare professions. 

How will this change the route to qualification for optometrists?

Instead of the current two-stage qualification, a university degree followed by the Scheme for Registration, academic learning will be integrated with practice-based learning into a single registerable qualification. To recognise the professional characteristics, knowledge and skills displayed by all optometrists, the revised qualification route will be at master’s level.

What are the next steps for the College?

We are already working with universities, employers and other key eye sector bodies to agree the best way to deliver the new qualification route. It is already clear that it will require new and enhanced partnerships between the College, as the leader in professional formation and development in optometry, universities, as the leaders in academic optometric provision, and employers, as the home of optometric service delivery.  The new qualification route must provide a high quality trainee learning and assessment experience within the existing funding methods available.

We also look forward to working further with the sector to use our combined expertise and experience to engage with the development of the more detailed guidance and knowledge hub that GOC has indicated will go out to tender this month.  The hub will provide more detail on how the new qualifications can meet the required standards for GOC approval.

When will these changes come into effect?

The change to qualification requirements will have no direct impact on students and trainees starting university before 2023.  However, this is a short timescale to develop the new qualifications and partnerships. A great deal of collaborative working and planning will be required to assure the high standards of the profession in qualifying safe and effective practitioners, and ensure smooth progression to full GOC approval.  The College has therefore started that work with universities and employer groups. We have already heard that stakeholders from across the sector want the College to actively lead the way and facilitate collaboration between all involved to ensure the best possible trainee experience and progression to qualified optometrists well prepared for the future of eye care.  We will continue to provide regular updates for members as plans progress.