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Author: Dr Connor Moore

An outline of both types of the foundation programme, and some advantages and disadvantages.


Before we start to explain the academic foundation programme, it's first important to get a grasp on what the normal Foundation Programme is and how it works.

There are 20 foundation schools as listed above. A foundation school is a geographical area which includes a number of NHS trusts/hospitals. When you proceed with the normal Foundation programme application, you will select and rank all of these 20 foundation schools, before you find out your overall FPAS score (EPM/SJT)

The foundation programme is split into 6 clinical rotations across foundation year 1 & 2. See an example below:

FY1: Gastro, Geriatric Medicine, Urology, FY2: ED, Gen Surg, GP

The objective of the FP is to give you a rounded experience of hospital medicine & surgery, and community care. These rotations will be full time and you will be expected to meet the UKFPO requirements for the ARCP by the end of F1 & F2.

Some Key Links


The Academic Foundation Programme (AFP)  is a selective programme which enables candidates to dedicate one of the six (four month) blocks of the foundation programme to research, leadership, or education based activity. (It's now recently been changed to be under the umbrella of the Specialised Foundation Programme, however most of the documentation still refers to this specialised programme as the AFP). 

There is a significant variation in how this is delivered. For instance how this academic time is divided between the two years. The most common format is that which entirely replaces a clinical block with research time, typically in FY2 year. However this can even replace two clinical blocks (Newcastle) or be split entirely across FY1 /FY2 on a 1-2day/week basis. You will need to research each AUoA thoroughly before applying to determine which format will suit your needs best. For more info on the variation between each AUoA click here for our Deanery Selection guide. 

An example academic F1/F2:

F1: Cardiology, T&O, Gastro

F2: Research (with clinical day release), ICU (with academic day release), GP (with academic day release)

For the duration of the academic time candidates typically have access to university resources and an academic department of their choosing. This will enable access to libraries , journals, that otherwise would not be possible for FP candidates. Additionally some AUoAs offer PGCerts, which can be helpful for Core training application points.

You will typically be allocated or have to find an academic supervisor to structure your academic time and give you a project to complete. This is the case across all AFP types including Research, Med Ed & Leadership/Management. 

For an overview of AFP types click here


For the FP application there will be a total of 100 points available for each candidate. This is assessed via the Situational Judgement Test (50 points) and the Educational Performance Measure (EPM) score (50 points).

The situational judgement test is typically performed in final year and is only used to rank candidates in the FP system.

There are other FP opportunities such as the Foundation Priority Placements & Psychiatry Foundation Fellowship placements. More info in button below. 

The AFP has an entirely seperate application to the normal FP. You need to select 2 of the 15 AUoAs on the oline system oriel. On this system you will then input information such as EPM score and a series of CV questions: 

  • Publications (Up to ten) 

  • Presentations (up to ten)

  • Prizes (up to ten) 

  • Extra Degrees


Depending on the AUoA this may be the only stage required before shortlisting for interview. London & Yorkshire & Humber allocate interviews based on this scoring system. The emphasis that each AUoA places on the CV section varies considerably, with some having very strict cut offs for EPM scores and others not considering it at all. The key message is to try to maximise points at every opportunity, and not be disheartened if you feel like you're not quite reaching max points. For tips on how to boost your CV click here.

However, the majority of AUoAs require White Space Questions. These are described in detail in our "White Space Questions" section. They are typically 3-5 questions about you as a candidat and how you meet the requirements for the AFP person specification. 

AUoAs then combine the CV section and the WSQs into a score to shortlist for interview. This is then followed by a formal in person, or online (in 2020 due to covid) interview which is covered in our interview sections. These interviews vary significantly between AUoAs but broadly cover the following three topics: 

  • Clinical Station (a clinical case) 

  • Critical Appraisal (assessment of a paper and discussion) 

  • Personal (a chance to present yourself to the interviewers and your reasoning for doing an AFP)


This is a complex and personal question which will be based on what your objectives are and what you would like to get out of your foundation training. An AFP can be useful to pursue specific research or education aims, and develop a network within a chosen specialty. With this in mind it will be important to choose the AuOA carefully, as well as possible projects. It would not be optimal to be in an academic post pursuing something you weren’t interested in, with the expectation of outputs from it.


Some key advantages to consider: 

  • If successful in interview you avoid the SJT curveball for job placement, and will likely live/work in an area of your choosing doing clinical rotations you have selected. 

  • Some AUoAs include the ability to stay in the same hospital for two years.

  • Facilitated support with an allocated academic supervisor, with experience in publishing research. 

  • Often AFPs are attached to a team of researchers and can utilize this network for further works

  • Dedicated research time. Often AFPs utilize this extra time to take on extra projects or revise for specialty exams. 

  • Some AFP placements offer teaching opportunities, or offer a platform for setting up teaching courses (e.g. Access the AFP)

  • Access to network of other AFP doctors for collaborative research/education/leadership opportunities

  • Significant number of opportunities to boost CV points

Some key disadvantages to consider:

  • Less clinical time = less experience. This could effect clinical confidence 

  • 5 rather than 6 clinical rotations = 1 less specialty to experience if you are unsure about what you want to do 

  • Less time to complete the same clinical competencies as your colleagues.

  • 9-5 academic job with no on-calls can mean lower pay. This could be supplemented with weekend or evening locums, but not all want to do this

  • It can be challenging to balance clinical, academic and social responsibilities 

  • There is an expectation to perform and deliver outputs due to the added time you will be given​

It will be important for you to weigh up these considerations before you apply. A key point to keep in mind is that doing the normal FP does not exclude you from these opportunities available to AFPs, such as the network and research projects. It purely means you have to be more proactive to seek these opportunities. There will be many FP candidates who do more research or education/leadership activity than AFP counterparts. The main difference is time and support. In an AFP you will have dedicated time to spend doing these activities.

See our "Research as a Non-AFP foundation doctor" section for further info on how to get these opportunities. 

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