Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACF)

Recruitment to Academic GP training in the UK is different in each country...


The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) Programme is a national initiative offering specialist training to those who can demonstrate that they have outstanding potential for development as a clinical academic. There are a few NIHR funded ACFs in General Practice (GP) and Primary Care in England and some locally funded, NIHR approved programmes too. Programmes can range from between 2-4 years with 12 months protected academic time. Applications for these highly competitive posts are made by completing both an ACF application form in the national NIHR application window and, where an applicant does not hold a current GP National Training Number (NTN), a standard GP ST1 application in the national medical recruitment window; applicants must demonstrate suitability for a clinical GP training programme via the usual assessment methods in order to be considered for an academic programme.

Eligibility Criteria & Guidance

If you are applying for an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF), you will need to meet the criteria in person specifications for both General Practice ST1 & the NIHR ACF Person Specification.

Detailed guidance on ACF recruitment and appointment may be found on the NIHR website.

Recruitment Timeline & Vacancy Numbers

ACF posts in General Practice are recruited to in the national NIHR timeline by individual HEE Local Offices. Details of the recruitment timeline and indicative ACF vacancy numbers can be on each HEE Local Office website.


In Scotland doctors are required first to secure a clinical GP rotation and then apply for a Scottish Clinical Research Excellence Development Scheme (SCREDS) lecturer post. Four of these have been available in Scotland since August 2010 in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to allow academic careers for general practitioners at an early stage in their training. As with hospital SCREDS schemes the posts are open to speciality trainees holding a National Training Number who have demonstrated some academic promise in their undergraduate and early postgraduate careers. The point of entry is at the beginning of the second or third year speciality training (ST2 or ST3).

The outcome and the end of Academic GP training in both England and Scotland is the same, in that the fellowships provide 4 years training, of which about 75% is clinical and 25% academic. At the completion of training the trainee will be eligible for accreditation as a general practitioner, and also in a position to apply for admission to a Clinical Academic Fellowship or PhD studentship leading to the award of a higher degree.

Further information is available at the Scottish Medical Training website or alternatively, contact the Scottish School of Primary Care.


All recruits to GP Training in Wales can, in their ST2 year and in competition with their peers, apply to extend their training and enter a GP Specialty Academic Training (GPSAT) programme. Each year, typically two applicants for the GPSAT programme will be recruited. They undertake their ST1 and ST2 years of GP specialty training in the standard fashion. Then they undertake an ST3 and ST4 year training half of each week in a clinical general practice setting and half in academic training. Towards the end of their programmes GPSAT trainees (if they so wish) will be well placed to apply in open competition for a GP Academic Fellowship in Wales.

The Purpose of the GP Academic Programme is:

  • A route into an academic GP career starting in GP Specialty Training
  • The development of academic skills early in a GP career
  • To undertake training and research in the Postgraduate and Undergraduate Departments of The Deanery alongside the final part of GP specialty clinical training
  • Preparation to begin a PhD if subsequently recruited to a GP Academic Fellowship programme

Stage of training Work and learning undertaken
ST1 & ST2 Years Clinical training - 18 months in hospital posts and 6 months in a GP post
ST3 & ST4 Years Clinical training - 2.5 days a week
Academic training – 2.5 days a week
At Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) Potential Application for GP Academic Fellowship Programme

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland there are usually two General Practice Academic Research Training Scheme (GPARTS) posts available each year, funded jointly by the NI Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency. These posts are open to doctors who have already been selected for specialist training in general practice and have, at the time of commencement of their post, completed their ST2 year. They are based in the academic Department of General Practice and Primary Care at Queen's University, Belfast and affiliated either to the University’s Centre for Public Health Research or its Centre for Medical Education. The trainee’s clinical work is conducted in the general practices in which the senior lecturers in that unit undertake their clinical duties. The duration of each post is for two years, with 50% of time in clinical work and 50% in academia, gaining training in research skills, experience in teaching and undertaking a research project, leading to a MPhil qualification. Applications are invited in January, to the NI Deanery, for appointment in August.

Also, there is an opportunity to enter academic GP training as an Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF), similar to the NIHR scheme in England, but open only to doctors at ST3 or above. These two-year posts, based in Queen’s University, Belfast, are appointed in open competition between doctors in training in a range of specialties, of which general practice is one. The posts have been created as part of Modernising Medical Careers/National Co-ordinating Centre for Research Capacity Programme of Integrated Academic Training. Successful applicants will have achieved evidence of clinical academic achievement and ideally have experience of research, for example as an academic F2 or in an intercalated BSc. The ACF is expected to complete their professional clinical training, develop an area of research interest and apply for an externally funded clinical research training fellowship for a PhD.

For Further information visit Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency and Queen’s University Belfast.