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Dr Ella Tumelty

London Academic Trainee

Thinking about applying for an academic foundation program? 

This article will explain the main three types of academic foundation programs (AFP), what they offer and why someone might want to apply for each.


Academic foundation programs can be subdivided into 3 categories:

  1. Academic research 

  2. Education and training 

  3. Leadership and management 

There are some exceptions which don’t quite fit this, for example, Trent in the East Midlands Academic Unit of Application (UoA) offers three posts in psychiatry.

However, in general, most posts fit into one of these three categories. Additionally, each of the subtypes are not mutually exclusive. A number of the education and leadership posts include academic research, and equally, there are teaching and leadership opportunities across many of the posts. Academic foundation programs give trainees additional opportunities to enhance their research, leadership or education skills, as well as achieving the core competencies of the foundation programme curriculum. 

All of the academic foundation programs offer trainees fantastic opportunities to enhance their research, leadership or education skills, as well as achieving the core competencies of the foundation programme curriculum. Good luck with your application! Any additional questions, please feel free to email myself or one of the members of the Access the AFP team


Academic research AFP’s represent the largest proportion of posts available. The majority of posts involve a four-month specialist research placement, usually in the F2 year, however some of them have dedicated academic time dispersed throughout the foundation training e.g. one day per week. 

The main focus of the AFP in research is to allow trainees to develop core research skills, with dedicated time to pursue a research project. Each AUoA will differ in the particular research they offer posts in, with some being more flexible to accommodate the trainee’s specific interests. 

Why would you want to do it?

  • Develop an understanding of research 

  • Embed yourself within an academic department 

  • Pursue research in a field you are interested in 

  • Possibly develop lab skills, depending on what project you undertake 

  • Develop appraisal skills

  • Develop skills in statistical methods and interpretation 

  • Enhance skills in presenting and disseminating research

Gain confidence in qualitative data interpretation  

  • Share opportunities and experiences with other researchers, and attend research conferences 

Some AFP programmes will provide an in-depth teaching programme, e.g. Severn deanery offers a 6-month teaching programme on research methods. Other programmes offer the opportunity to undertake a postgraduate certificate in Healthcare Research and Methods. 

Most appointed trainee’s will be granted an academic supervisor throughout their foundation training. This is usually the person who will oversee their research project.


The main focus of the medical education AFP is to enhance the trainee’s skills as a teacher and educator. This may involve creating and managing a teaching programme for medical students, enhancing an undergraduate or postgraduate curriculum or undertaking an education specific research project. Each AFP will differ slightly in what they offer, but some examples are listed below. 

  • Sheffield (part of the Yorkshire and Humber AUoA) offer a four-month block in F2 where academic trainee’s support undergraduate education by supervising anatomy classes, demonstrating practical’s and clinical skills, and organising small group teaching and tutorials. 

  • In the East of England AUoA, trainee’s in their F2 year work 60% clinically and 40% in education, where they complete a PGCert, and complete an education-specific research project. The majority of trainee’s time is spent within the trust, working alongside the local education team, and helping to run and improve simulation sessions. 

  • In Wessex, trainee’s have the opportunity to contribute towards improving and innovating education at postgraduate and undergraduate levels, not only for medical students and doctors, but also allied health professionals. They also encourage trainees to attend the ‘Teaching Tomorrow’s Doctors’ course at Southampton medical school. 

  • In West Yorkshire, trainee’s have a dedicated four-month rotation in which they teach medical students on the MBChB course, and are encouraged to participate in research. Additionally, they fund attendance at conferences such as Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) and Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME)

Many of these posts offer trainee’s the opportunity to enrol in a postgraduate certificate in medical education alongside the AFP. In addition, many of the AFP’s offer additional qualifications e.g North-West of England offers trainees a funded opportunity to enrol in modules such as Teaching and Learning in the Clinical Context at Edge Hill University. In many of these posts, trainees receive an honorary University contract, enabling them to utilise the University library resources.


The Leadership & Management (L&M) posts provide trainees with an opportunity to develop leadership and management skills, alongside clinical learning. Trainee’s often complete research projects, whilst developing their own leadership skills, and frequently have opportunities to obtain additional qualifications in management.

For example, Peninsula offers two L&M POSTS, and offers a postgraduate certificate in Healthcare Management, Leadership and Innovation with Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD). North-West of England AUoA offers Leadership trainees a funded opportunity to enrol in modules such as Medical Leadership at Edge Hill University. 

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