40 years of the College

Recognising 40 years of professional excellence in eye health.

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On 1 March 1980, the British Optical Association, the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and the Scottish Association of Opticians joined forces to become the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists), the professional examining body for ophthalmic opticians, and the foundation of the College as we know it today. 

  • 40 years of raising standards of optometric education and practice 
    The College has been qualifying the profession since its creation - and introduced the Scheme for Registration in 2005. We also make sure that optometrists can maintain and develop their skills through our CET and CPD. Since our initial pilot back in 1987, we’ve developed a calendar of regional CET events, introduced two CET journals, Optometry in Practice and Acuity, and launched a dedicated online learning area, complete with courses and recorded webinars. Looking to the future, our growing range of higher qualifications in key topics and conditions equips optometrists for new challenges and responsibilities. We produce and maintain the Guidance for Professional Practice and the Clinical Management Guidelines, the key resources for optometrists in daily practice. 
  • 40 years of commissioning and supporting essential research
    One of the prime aims of the College is the advancement for the public benefit of the study of and research into optometry, optics, vision science and related subjects. Within a year of our creation, we awarded our first College Research Scholarship and launched Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (OPO), now the world’s leading optometry journal, and established a research fund the following year. Our research highlights include, The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER), which examines changes in children’s vision and cycloplegic refractive error over time, and Prevalence of Visual Impairment in Dementia (PrOVIDe), which looks at the prevalence of vision problems in people with dementia.
  • 40 years of raising the profile of optometry among commissioners, health professionals and the general public
    From our rigorous opposition to the proposal to repeal section 21 of the Opticians Act de-registering optical dispensing in 1982 (subsequently withdrawn) to our high profile involvement in the consultation on the proposed introduction of an optometric degree apprenticeship, we have been speaking up on behalf of the profession and our members on all the matters that affect them and their patients. We’ve also worked to increase public understanding of the role of the optometrists and the importance of regular eye examinations, through our PR activity, national public health campaigns and award-winning website, lookafteryoureyes.org
  • 40 years of supporting our members in practice and in their careers 
    The College is the professional body for optometry and ensures that our community of 16,000 members has the guidance and resources, including the popular patient leaflets introduced in 2009, that they need to deliver high quality eye health care. 

    We move with the times and make the most of changing technology to ensure that our members have instant, convenient access to the latest information, guidance and learning resources – online, via podcasts and webinars, and through our award-winning member app, launched in 2018.

    Over the years, we have sharpened our focus on learning and development, ensuring that our CPD resources inspire, inform and support our members as they meet new challenges, take on new roles and fulfil their career potential. 

Throughout 2020, we will be commemorating the anniversary of our foundation in 1980 in a range of ways including blogs, podcasts and an Instagram campaign, which aim to get our members thinking and talking. We’re also producing 40 Years of Research, a booklet that highlights the impact of College funded research. Look out for our anniversary events throughout the year ahead, and in the meantime, take a look at our anniversary timeline for more information on the history of the College and our achievements and highlights from the last 40 years. 

We’ve packed a lot into those forty years, so be prepared to scroll ... and scroll! 

What are your memories of the College over the last 40 years?