Specialised Foundation Programme FAQs

Previously referred to as ‘Academic Foundation Programmes’ AFP

I am interested in academic training, what should I apply for?

All applicants need to apply to the national Foundation Programme (FP) vacancy in the first instance.

You should then consider applying for Specialised Foundation Programmes (SFP) via the main application on Oriel. 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 short-listing and interviewing.

*Applicants are advised to refer to the specific AUoA (Academic 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 academic 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.

The UKFPO have also produced a couple of documents with programme information on the Specialised Foundation Training 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. Please see the FPP section of our website for further details.

I do not wish to be considered for an academic programme, what do I apply for?

All applicants need to apply to the national Foundation Programme (FP) vacancy in the first instance.

If you do not wish to be considered for an academic programme, you should not apply to any of the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) vacancies.

If you apply to the national vacancy for Foundation Priority Programmes (FPP), you should consider the programmes carefully and leave any posts with academic components in the ‘not wanted’ column when you preference programmes as part of the 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 in the first instance.

You are advised to consider the local shortlisting criteria for Specialised Foundation Programmes (SFP) as you may be eligible to apply for some foundation schools. 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.

Academic Training

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

Academic 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, academic trainees will undertake a 4-month placement during their F2 year. This time would be dedicated to academic research, medical education or leadership and management. This does vary across the foundation schools. We would advise you 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 Specialised Foundation Programmes (SFP) to be eligible to apply for an academic clinical fellowship (ACF) at ST1 level as part of your specialist training (e.g. 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 Academic Foundation Programme 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 (e.g. peer reviewed publication, national presentation, etc.).

Is the SFP only for trainees 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 an academic post mean I have less clinical experience?

Specialised Foundation posts are carefully designed to ensure that you have sufficient time to develop clinical skills and experience. As such, trainees normally feel that they have plenty of time to complete their clinical and academic 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 UKFPO has minimum clinical criteria that all foundation doctors need to achieve regardless of rotation. Some trainees 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.

Academic Selection

I graduate/d from a non-UK medical school, is it possible for me to apply for an academic job?

Yes. All applicants are welcome to apply for academic training posts. However, please bear in mind that all settled workers will be offered places first in accordance with the current immigration rules and regulations. UK Home Office legislation around right to work in the UK is also subject to change.

What is an academic unit of application?

An academic unit of application (AUoA) is a group of one or more foundation schools that have joined together for the purposes of processing AFP applications. These can be different to the Units of Application (UoA) for the Foundation Programme.

Why can I only apply to two SUoAs?

By limiting the number of applications to two UoAs, the UKFPO has found that more applicants secure an SFP post whilst still allowing a level of choice. Historically, a number of academic 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 applicants to academic programmes have indicated that geography is the more important factor when selecting where to apply for the majority of applicants, followed by the type of academic 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?

SFP match ranking score = educational/academic decile score + SUoA score.

Where in oriel can I find information regarding my Academic application outcome?

Log into your Oriel account and click onto the ‘Applications tab’ to view the status of your application, you will find any AFP 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?

It does not mean that you will definitely receive an AFP offer. You may receive an offer; however, it will depend on your ranking and the availability of academic programmes.

My status on my Oriel dashboard says ‘Interview Unsuccessful’, what does this mean?

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

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

Applicants will have 48 hours to accept from when they receive their offer to accept or decline the offer 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, please note that if you accept an SFP offer and then decline the offer / 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 to offer. You will not be offered any further programmes from within the AUoA vacancy. If you have applied to a second AUoA, you may still receive an SFP offer. If not, you will be included in the national allocation process to FP.

I have applied to two SUoAs and have not been offered my preferred option; can I decline my current offer and wait to see if I get my preferred offer in cascade?

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

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

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 Academic Foundation Programme can be found on our Specialised Foundation Programme page.