I know! No posts for a few weeks and then two in a week. It feels like there is a lot of news to share this week.

If you are a health and social care researcher and haven’t yet seen the new UK wide framework for health and social care research you might want to catch up with the previous blog which will give you an overview.  This is an important framework and I would encourage you to check it out.

However the focus of todays blog is news that a new fellowship has been added to the Health Education England/National Institute for Health Research (HEE/NIHR) Integrated Clinical Academic programme (ICA).

The introduction the Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowships (PCAF) changes the structure of the ICA programme at what was the level of the Masters in Research.


What’s changed?

Within the ICA programme the previous structure of awards for early career researchers was:

  • Internships- short duration awards designed to increase practical understanding of clinical research and its role in improving health outcomes.
  • Masters in Research – fully funded places on Masters in Research programmes run by specific Universities selected through a process of open competition
  • Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowships – providing the opportunity to research at doctoral level alongside continued clinical practice and development.

The new PCAF fellowships have replaced the Masters in Research, with the new structure  being:

  • Internships
  • Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship
  • Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

This is an important change for anyone who was considering applying for a place on one of the HEE/NIHR Masters in Research programmes in 2018. The change comes into effect from September 2018.

It is important to stress that as stated in the Guide to the ICA Programme Any change in how pre-doctoral level support is delivered going forward will not affect trainees already undertaking an MRes or due to start one.

Personally I welcome this as a really positive change, although I appreciate it’s not great news for the universities who were delivering the Masters programmes.

One of the biggest changes is the ability for applicants to undertake their fellowship at any university aligned with their clinical and research interests rather than being limited to the universities awarded funding to run the MRes programme.

This will enable fellows to develop a training programme aligned closely with their personal needs. Importantly it will enable them to develop close relationships with potential PhD supervisors and facilitate a smooth transition to doctoral level study.

The PCAF set out a clear intent to support health professionals who wish to progress to doctoral level research. Whilst this was an aspiration for people embarking upon the MRes programme the preparation of a doctoral level training programme was not a requirement.

An brief overview of the PCAF 

Below is a summary of key points which have caught my attention taken from the guidance for applicants:

  • The PCAF is a fully funded award which enables you to split your time between clinical practice and research training. This split must be a 50:50 split.
  • Funding is for two years full time or up to 40 months part time. 
  • When applying you are not expected to have previous formal academic training but you must be able to demonstrate your potential to develop as a future clinical academic leader.
  • It will be up to you to identify the University in which you wish to locate your fellowship and have the necessary discussions to set this up.
  • It is important to consider the university you seek to locate your fellowship in as it will be expected to have a strong academic research record, and provide the you with every opportunity to explore your research interests. 
  • It is expected that the training plan outlined in the application is personalised e.g. it is aligned to your training needs.
  • Whilst that may include the completion of a Masters degree this is not an obligation: The completion of a formal academic qualification, such as a Master’s degree, would be supported as part of the training plan if appropriate to the developmental needs of the applicant.
  • Alongside your academic development, as with all awards in the ICA programme, it is expected that you will also develop your clinical skills.

Following completion of a PCAF, it is expected that you will be in a position to apply for a PhD Fellowship and can show evidence of:

  • Completion of the training proposed in the application;
  • Preparation of an application for a competitive, peer-reviewed doctoral level research training fellowship;
  • Increased research skills;
  • Development of their research interests;
  • Development of clinical academic networks


The funding provided through the fellowship is as follows:

Up to 50% of the award holder’s salary (including the employer’s contribution to National Insurance and Superannuation) to support the academic component of the post;

A training and development programme appropriate for a PCAF (as detailed in the application) comprising

  • £5,000 towards Masters level training
  • £1,000 bursary for conference/meetings
  • £1,000 towards the cost of supervision and mentorship


Anticipated Timescale for Applications

At the moment it is stated that the timescale is subject to change. However the following dates have been given:

  • February 2018 – Application open
  • April 2018 – Applications close
  • June 2018 – awards panel will meet
  • September 2018 – earliest start date for the award.

If you are interested in applying for one of these fellowships please don’t think that you can pull together a high quality application if you start in February. There is a lot to do in terms of identifying your host university, having the relevant discussions within your organisations and developing your application.

People always under estimate the time involved and are then surprised by what is actually involved. As with all ICA fellowships these are highly competitive and need to be given the time and respect they deserve.

This new fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for any health professional wanting to develop a clinical academic career. If you are interested take the first step today, in fact do it now this very moment –  download the guidance and start to have the discussions.