Junior doctor Medical academic Applying for training

Last updated:

Academic Clinical Fellowships

Researcher in lab

Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) are Specialty Training posts which allow you to spend 25% of your time on academic training as well as 75% in clinical training, and prepare you for an application for a training fellowship for a higher degree.

ACF posts typically last three years, or up to four years for an Academic GP post.

ACF posts are tied to particular specialties and LETBs in England, and are usually available at CT/ST1 or ST3 level, although some may be offered at CT/ST2 or ST4.

Find out which ACFs are available from National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

List of Academic Clinical Fellowships available in England

Where are they available?

The NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowships are only available in England.

Although all four nations offer Academic Foundation Programmes and fellowships to enable trainees to undertake PhDs, the systems for supporting trainees in the early years of clinical specialty training differ.

Nation What is available? Need more information?
Northern Ireland Academic Clinical Fellowships are offered for two years Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency
Scotland Academic training is available alongside clinical specialty training at all five medical schools, but these are not centrally advertised or applied for Scottish Academic Training
Wales Academic training is available alongside certain specialties in the early stages of clinical specialty training Wales deanery

Top tip

This list from the NIHR is often not updated until quite late in the recruitment cycle. Make sure you are prepared.

We suggest you:

  • take a look at what was available last year
  • contact LETBs that offered ACFs in your area of interest
  • check to see whether they will be offered this year


Applications open earlier

Applications for ACFs open and close earlier than applications for mainstream Specialty Training.

Usually applications are open from mid-October to mid-November for fellowships starting the following August, with a second round available to start the following March.

Top tip

It is generally recommended that you apply to the main Specialty Training recruitment round as well as to ACFs, to maximise your chances of getting a national training number. However, you may prefer to take some time out to improve your CV and reapply in the next round or in the following year.


What happens after an ACF?

The ACFs are designed to give trainees extra time and experience to develop academic skills such as:

  • literature searches
  • reviewing available literature
  • scientific writing
  • laboratory skills and teaching

This is also seen as a chance to start developing your own research area and gathering data, with a view to applying for a fellowship to pursue a higher research degree (eg. a PhD), and later a Clinical Lectureship.

According to Roxanne Keynejad writing in the BMJ, 38% of ACFs returned to clinical specialty training after their Academic Clinical Fellowship. However, the National Institute of Health Research emphasises that it is possible to return to clinical specialty training and then apply for a fellowship at a later stage.

The aim of the ACF scheme is to give trainees the opportunity to prepare for an academic career and the selection panel will be looking for a commitment to a career in academic medicine, but you should also see it as an opportunity to decide if academic medicine is right for you.

Undertaking an ACF and then returning to full-time clinical medicine is also a valid choice.


Need further information?

Here are some additional websites which offer useful information and guidance on Academic Clinical Fellowships:

National Institute of Health Research Integrated Academic Training Programme
NHS Medical Careers
Applying for Academic Clinical Fellowship posts - BMJ article, July 2014
ACF case study - BMJ article, August 2010