Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) FAQs

I am interested in specialised training programmes, for example, academic research or leadership and management. What should I apply for?

All applicants need to apply to the national Foundation Programme (FP) vacancy on Oriel.

You should select that you wish to apply for Specialised Foundation Programmes (SFP) in part 2 of the main application form. These programmes tend to focus around research, leadership and management or medical education. These posts are all recruited to through competitive selection methodology and will require applicants to attend an interview. You can apply to up to two specialised units of application (SUoAs). Each SUoA will then have its own local process for shortlisting and interviewing.

You should refer to the specific SUoA (Specialised Unit of Application) website that you will be applying to, to see which achievements they will be taking into consideration for their shortlisting and interview processes. The foundation school websites will provide more information on the specialised posts they offer and their structure.

More information about how to apply, together with the timeline, is available in the Applicants’ Handbook on the Two-year Foundation Programme page.

Specific details about SFPs are on the Specialised Foundation Programme page.

There are also a number of Foundation Priority Programmes (FPP), which offer exposure to academia, some of which also provide the opportunity to undertake a postgraduate qualification. See the FPP section of our website for further details.

I do not wish to be considered for an specialised programme. What do I apply for?

All applicants need to apply to the national Foundation Programme (FP) vacancy on Oriel.

If you do not wish to be considered for an SFP, select ‘No’ to this question in part 2 of the main application form.

If you apply for the Foundation Priority Programme (FPP) (in part 1 of the main application form), you should consider the programmes carefully and leave any posts with academic components in the ‘not wanted’ column when you preference FPP posts once you have submitted your application form.

I have little research experience but I am interested in academia. What can I apply for?

All applicants need to apply to the national Foundation Programme (FP) vacancy on Oriel.

You should consider the local shortlisting criteria for SFP – you may be eligible to apply to some SUoAs. The foundation school websites will provide more information on the specialised posts they offer and their structure.

You can apply for Foundation Priority Programmes (FPP), some of which offer academic components. You should rank the programmes with academia included positively and in order of preference. You will not need to attend an interview to be considered for these posts.

Specialised Training

Are all specialised foundation posts the same? How do they differ from standard foundation posts?

Specialised foundation posts vary in content and length. With respect to content, some focus on research; some on medical education; some on management/leadership and some a combination of all three. The length of SFPs vary considerably from standalone four-month blocks to integrated two-year programmes. It is important to research programmes before you apply so that you can pick the best one for you.

In the majority of cases, foundation doctors on the SFP will undertake a 4-month placement during their F2 year. This time is dedicated to academic research, medical education or leadership and management. This does vary across the foundation schools. You should to refer to local foundation school websites for specific details.

Is a Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) the only route into academic medicine?

No. It is not a requirement for higher academic training for applicants to have completed an SFP.

It is one possible route, which allows doctors to sample academic medicine at an early stage in their careers.  You do not have to complete SFP to be eligible to apply for an academic clinical fellowship (ACF) at ST1 level as part of your specialist training (for example paediatrics, neurology, radiology). Many doctors will enter academic medicine through an ACF post at ST3 level. It is also possible to compete for funding from the Wellcome Trust, MRC, Cancer UK etc for a PhD at a later stage in your career without having done an SFP or been in an ACF post. However, entry criteria for ACF posts will include evidence of academic ability and therefore applicants will have to demonstrate they have achieved some academic output during their earlier training (for example peer reviewed publication, national presentation, etc.).

Is the SFP only for doctors who want a career in research?

No. It is designed for those interested in pursuing a career in clinical work combined with research, medical education or medical leadership/management.

Will doing a specialised post mean I have less clinical experience?

Specialised Foundation posts are carefully designed to ensure you have sufficient time to develop clinical skills and experience. As such, doctors normally feel that they have plenty of time to complete their clinical and specialised work. 

Do I need to complete the same clinical assessments as other foundation doctors? How do I do this if I am based in a lab?

The UK FP has minimum clinical criteria that all foundation doctors need to achieve regardless of rotation. Some doctors undertaking SFP may find they need to be more proactive than their clinical colleagues to fit the assessments in with their other commitments, but they are very achievable. Some foundation schools will also allow you to do more assessments in other blocks.

SFP Selection

I graduate/graduated from a non-UK medical school. Can I apply for a specialised job?

Yes. All applicants are welcome to apply for specialised training posts. However, bear in mind that all applicants must have right to work in the UK, in accordance with current immigration rules and regulations. UK Home Office legislation around right to work in the UK is subject to change and you are responsible for your own right to work status.

What is a specialised unit of application?

A specialised unit of application (SUoA) is a group of one or more foundation schools that have joined together for the purposes of processing SFP applications. These can be different to the Units of Application (UoAs) for the Foundation Programme.

Why can I only apply to two SUoAs?

By limiting the number of applications to two SUoAs, more applicants secure an SFP post whilst still allowing a level of choice. Historically, a number of SFP vacancies remained unfilled each year, when a single applicant received several offers and other applicants were unable to then take up these posts.

Another reason is that the majority of applicants to specialised programmes have indicated that geography is the more important factor when selecting where to apply, followed by the type of specialised programme on offer. Allowing applicants to apply to two SUoAs addresses the first factor and allows a level of choice for the second factor from an applicant’s viewpoint.

What does my SFP match ranking score consist of?

The SFP application and selection process is managed by each separate Foundation School or Specialised Unit of Application (SUoA). For UKFP 2024 onwards, local SFP selection processes will no longer use EPM/decile scores in the selection process (longlisting, shortlisting or interviews). The score that will be used to rank and match SFP applicants is determined locally, by the Foundation School/SUoA. Applicants should refer to individual Foundation School website pages for information about how applicants to their SFP programmes will be scored.

Where in Oriel can I find information regarding my SFP application outcome?

Log into your Oriel account and select the ‘Applications’ to view the status of your application. You will find any SFP offers under the ‘Offers’ tab on your dashboard.

My status on my Oriel dashboard says ‘Interview Complete’. Does this mean I will receive an offer?

No. You may receive an offer; however, it will depend on your ranking and the availability of specialised programmes.

My status on my Oriel dashboard says ‘Interview Unsuccessful’. What does this mean?

This means that you will not receive an SFP offer, as you have scored below the threshold at interview.

How long do I have to accept/decline an offer?

Applicants have 48 hours from when they receive their offer to accept or decline it on Oriel.

What happens if I decline my SFP offer? Could I still be considered for FP?

If you decline an SFP offer, you will automatically be included in the Foundation Programme (FP) allocation process. However, if you accept an SFP offer and then decline the offer or withdraw from the SFP selection process, you will also be withdrawn from the national allocation process to FP.

What happens if I do not accept an offer within the 48-hour period?

The system will assume that you wish to decline the offer. You will not be offered any further programmes from within that SUoA vacancy. If you have applied to a second SUoA, you may still receive an SFP offer from them. If not, you will be included in the national allocation process to FP.

I have applied to two SUoAs and have not been offered a programme at my preferred SUoA, but I have been offered a programme at the second SUoA I applied to. Can I decline my current offer and wait to see if I get an offer from my preferred SUoA in cascade?

Yes. You can decline your offer and wait to see if you receive an offer from the other SUoA during the offers cascades. However, it is not guaranteed that you would receive an offer from your preferred SUoA. If you do not receive a second offer you will be included in the FP allocation process.

What happens if I do not receive any SFP offers?

If you do not receive any SFP offers, you will be included in the national allocation process for FP.

To apply for the SFP do I need an intercalated degree?

No, this is not a requirement.

More information on the Specialised Foundation Programme is on our Specialised Foundation Programme page.