New education and training requirements published

Today we’ve published our new requirements for the education and training of optometrists and dispensing opticians, which include Outcomes for Registration, Standards for Approved Qualifications, and Quality and Assurance Enhancement Method.

The requirements came into effect 1 March 2021 and set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours an optical student must demonstrate to be awarded a GOC-approved qualification to join our register as an optometrist or dispensing optician. They also set out requirements for providers who offer GOC-approved qualifications.

The requirements introduce important changes to make sure optical professionals are equipped for their future roles in providing care to patients and service-users and that qualifications we approve are fit for purpose. These changes include:

  • A new outcomes-based approach to specify the knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of a day-one registrant by moving away from the previous numerical and competency-based method for setting requirements for GOC qualification approval and emphasising the development of professional capability needed for current and future roles. This also includes a greater focus on key skills such as professional judgement, patient-centred communication, management of risk and diagnostic, consultation and clinical practice skills.
  • Introducing a minimum Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) level (or equivalent) for GOC approved qualifications (RQF Level 7 or equivalent for optometrists and RQF Level 6 or equivalent for dispensing opticians).
  • Qualifications must integrate 48 weeks learning and experience in practice, which will help build professional confidence, effective communication and professionalism to prepare students for broader and more varied clinical roles.
  • Introducing an integrated approach for curriculum design and assessment, informed by feedback from a range of stakeholders, including patients, to ensure that detailed curriculum and assessment remains current and responsive to local, regional and national patient and service-user needs and broader stakeholder requirements. 
  • A greater emphasis on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
  • A new risk-based approach to quality assurance and enhancement, informed by thematic, periodic, sample-based and annual reviews of qualification we approve.

The new requirements will transform the education and training and benefit future optometrists and dispensing opticians, patients and service-users and ensure that qualifications involve a range of stakeholders such as patients, employers, members of the eye-care team and other healthcare professionals in the design, delivery and assessment of GOC-approved qualifications. They will also allow our registrants to play a much greater role in providing care to patients and service-users from their first day as qualified healthcare professionals. 

We will continue to implement these new requirements through a new Sector Strategic Implementation Steering Group, which brings together key organisations across the optical sector to work together to ensure the most advantageous external operating environment for providers as they begin to adapt existing approved or provisionally approved qualifications or prepare applications for new qualification approval to meet the new requirements.  

GOC Council Chair, Dr Anne Wright CBE, said: “We would like to thank all of our stakeholders, registrants, academic partners and members of our Expert Advisory Groups for their help and support in shaping these once in a generation changes to optical education. We will continue to work very closely with our stakeholders as we move forward together in implementing the new requirements.

We know implementation will not be easy and will require the close cooperation of all across the sector, including those responsible for funding optical education. However, transforming pre-registration optical education will bring long-term benefits for patients and service-users and help to meet the ambitions of governments and the NHS across the UK in the transformation of eye-care services.” 

Our Council approved these new requirements in February 2021, following extensive consultation and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders over the past few years as part of our Education Strategic Review.

Read the new requirements.