22nd May 2022

Written by

Anum Rizvi

Reading time

5 min read

How to get to grips with the Academic Clinical Fellowship

With an ACF, you will have access to a Masters-PhD level research training that will help you develop academic skills whilst allowing you to balance a clinical academic career. Keep reading to find out more!

The National Institute for health and research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellowship is an integrated clinical training programme that incorporates academia. This is an alternative to 100% clinical medical or surgical training for those interested in research.  It has standard duration of 3 years (up to 4 years for GP). The programme is 25% academia and 75% specialist clinical training. There are also opportunities to do it part time with a longer training course.

Selection is via a two staged process consisting of an application via ORIEL and an interview. Recruitment to an ACF is competitive - so please see our checklist for points to maximise your chances of getting a place!

NIHR ACFs may be advertised in up to three GMC specialties, and at multiple specialty training levels equating to ST1, 2, 3, (or 4 in Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry or Paediatrics).

Key things to note:

  1. Depending on the speciality, eligibility for an ACF application can be at ST1, ST2, ST3, or ST4.
  2. Specialty-specific ACFs are considered as run-through posts.
  3. For specialties without or without a core training period the ACF will enter directly into the specialty programme.

What to expect on interview?

The interview is around 30 minutes.

For the academic interview a publication is provided pre-interview and it assesses the following:

  • ability to explain data to both a scientific and lay person audience
  • evidence of academic achievement
  • knowledge of academia relevant to the ACF post
  • Experience of research
  • Balancing clinical and academic duties

After interview, the candidate is given a score out of 69 and applicants are graded as “appointable” or “not appointable”. An example of the interview structure and scoring can be found here


Image taken from Integrated Academic Training Pathway, NIHR Recruitment, 2022

Common myths de-busted:

Do you need to do the Specialised Foundation Programe formely known as the Academic Foundation programe to do an ACF?
Do you need distinctions at medical school to do an ACF?
Do you need an intercalated BSc to do an ACF?

Resources to help with your application:

  • Medical interviews: a comprehensive guide to CT, ST & registrar interview skills by Oliver Pichard
  • How to succeed in the Academic clinical interview by Wei Tan
  • How to read a paper by Trisha Greenhalgh
  • The Doctors guide to critical appraisal by Dr Narinder Kaur Gosal, Dr Gurpal Singh Gosall
  • Ramachandran M. Secrets of success: getting into specialty training. 1st ed. Ramachandran M, Smith PJ, Gladman MA, eds. London: CRC Press, 2009


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