Trailblazer Alex is first to graduate from course

Published: 4 December 2020 at 16:38

Alex Stewart

New qualification allows dispensing opticians to specialise in contact lens fitting

An optician from Cambridgeshire is celebrating after becoming the first to graduate from a pioneering course aimed at helping dispensing opticians specialise in contact lens fitting.

Alex Stewart, who works at the Huntingdon and St Ives branches of Specsavers, has recently completed the Contact Lens Optician Postgraduate Certificate at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the first postgraduate course of its kind in the UK.

The new course – which combines online study with blocks of face-to-face tuition at ARU’s brand new purpose-built contact lens teaching facility in Cambridge – began in September 2019. 

Alex managed to overcome setbacks caused by COVID-19 to be the first of his class to complete the course, enabling his registration as a Contact Lens Optician with the General Optical Council. 

The 28-year-old splits his time between the Huntingdon and St Ives branches of Specsavers, where he works as a manager, dispensing optician and now contact lens optician.

Alex, who lives in Huntingdon, said:

“The support I’ve received from my directors and supervisors at Specsavers has been fantastic, and they were keen to ensure I was given all the clinical training hours I needed. 

“As a result, I’d gained many of the necessary clinical supervised hours and case records before the first COVID-19 lockdown, so when restrictions started to ease in the summer I was able to have one last push to gain the remaining hours and records. 

“I’ve always wanted to diversify my role and the clinical aspect of becoming a contact lens optician appealed to me, having previously had more of a retail focus. In future I’m keen to be involved in training dispensing opticians and contact lens opticians, whilst continuing to work in high street practice with my large base of contact lens patients in Huntingdon and St Ives.”


Course leader Dr Holly Price, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences at ARU, said:

“I am thrilled that our new course now has its first registrant – we are delighted for Alex. 

“The whole pilot cohort have worked exceptionally hard this year and are on track to register shortly. Despite changes to the course needing to be made due to COVID-19, we have managed to clear these hurdles to ensure our students can register as Contact Lens Opticians. We look forward to the course moving from provisional approval to registrable status from the GOC in 2021.”