What are Academic Clinical Fellowships?

NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) are tailored training posts, which incorporate components of academic training. ACFs are designed for clinically qualified candidates who can demonstrate outstanding potential for a career in academic medicine or dentistry.

Fellows spend 75% of time undertaking specialist clinical training and 25% in research or educationalist training. A fellowship lasts for a maximum of 3 years (4 years for General Practitioners).

A fellow develops their academic skills, alongside being guided and supported through the Research Training Fellowship application process, to apply for funding to undertake a higher research degree (usually a PhD); or supported to gain a place on an educational programme (leading to a higher degree).

ACF trainees are encouraged to undertake the newly designed Research Methods online modules, which cover different generic research skills, such as presentation giving, writing grants and applying to ethics committees.  Contact Sarah Lyons for registration:ssmith86@liverpool.ac.uk or 0151 794 5780.

Securing an ACF appointment is competitive. It is not essential, but an advantage for applicants to already hold a degree such as a MRes, MPhil or MSc and show other evidence of research activity, particularly published work.

Funding and support

If you are a NIHR-funded ACF you are entitled to £1000 per annum to attend approved academic conferences and training courses.

How to apply

  • Posts are advertised nationally in October/November and begin in August. 
  • All jobs are now advertised on the national website for doctors in training: https://www.oriel.nhs.uk/Web/
  • Recruitment for ACF posts linked to Liverpool University is co-ordinated via St. Helens and Knowsley NHS Foundation Trust, as the Lead Employer Service for trainees primarily based in the Cheshire and Mersey region.
  • Mersey appoints 6 to 10 ACFs per year across varying specialties.



Apply for an ACF – it opens doors you never knew existed!

Robbie Kerr, Obstetrics and Gynaecology ST5 ACF

My younger self would have been surprised by my decision to apply for an academic clinical fellow. I had little interest in academia in medical school and I made a conscious decision not to intercalate or to apply for the academic foundation programme. I saw research as driven by self-centred egos that were not concerned with improving patient care, and a distraction from my clinical training at the time.

This changed when I met my future ACF supervisor. I was excited by the research he was conducting, and started seeing how important research was to inform policy changes and improve healthcare. I enthusiastically applied for an ACF starting at ST1- however did not shortlisted for an interview.

This failure was the best thing that happened to me. It made me sure that I wanted an ACF. Over the next two years I worked with my future ACF supervisor on small research projects and was offered a place on the ACF starting in ST3.

The ACF has given me so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise:

I gained an understanding of what a career as an academic is like. I learnt about ethics, sponsorship, insurance, collaboration, trial steering groups, data monitoring committees, patient- public involvement groups, NIHR, clinical research networks…  …the list goes on. Most importantly I gained an understanding of what a day-to-day job in clinical research was like.

I got to travel and meet wonderful people. The ACF allowed me to travel to Uganda to perform research, to the United States to present, to Oxford for training and London for research meetings.

I received fantastic training. The ACF gave me additional funding to pursue research training in Cochrane systematic reviews and qualitative interviewing.

It opened up opportunities that would not otherwise have been possible. I joined the national trainees committee and RCOG academic board as a junior academic representative. The protected research time allowed me to help prepare a successful application for an international randomised trial, prepare a Cochrane review, and complete an academic qualification- the RCOG’s Clinical Research APM.

There is little to lose and so much to gain by applying for an academic clinical fellow post. Personally at the end of the post I decided that the academic career pathway was not right for me, chose not to do a PhD, and instead focus on clinical work.

On reflection the ACF enhanced my career and training enormously. It gave me so many opportunities, a wonderful insight into research, and helped me chose the path that was right for me.