Imperial is proud to have one of the largest cohorts of National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) clinical academic trainees in the UK. We currently have approximately 70 NIHR and locally funded Academic Clinical Fellows in posts across Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and associated Trusts across North-West London.

Please see below for information on how these posts are arranged. 

Accordion widget - NIHR ACF


Recruitment for all ACF opportunities on the Integrated Academic Training programme is conducted via Health Education England regions and managed through Oriel, the national NHS online recruitment system. For Imperial College London, recruitment to ACF posts is coordinated by the London Recruitment team, based in the Operations Department of Health Education South London and overseen by the NIHR. Details are available on the NIHR website and the London LETBs Recruitment site.

Recruitment windows usually open in November/December for posts starting in the following September. ACF opportunities at Imperial College London are available in different specialties each year.

ACF posts are designed to include 25% time learning and carrying out academic research, usually as three-month blocks per year, combined with 75% time in clinical training. The posts are for a fixed term of 3 years. The ACF awards use clinical training opportunities on current GMC approved training programmes. At Imperial, these opportunities are available in most GMC defined medical specialties. Once in the programme, London academic trainees are administratively overseen by the Integrated Academic Training Team (IAT) in Health Education South London. The IAT team has good links with and regularly liaises with members of the Imperial AHSC CATO team on matters relating to the administration of NIHR clinical academic training programmes. Day-to-day management is by clinical and academic supervisors and training programme directors at Imperial.


The ACF programme is aimed at medical trainees usually without a higher degree (PhD/MPhil) with the aim of preparing them to obtain a Clinical Research Training Fellowship or other funding to complete a PhD/MD (Res). Trainees who already have a higher degree may also apply. Imperial College usually has around 20 ACF opportunities available each year in a range of clinical specialties.

  • Appointment to ACF programmes is usually at ST3 level (Specialty Trainee) but may be at CT1, ST1, ST2, ST3 or ST4 depending on the specialty.


ACFs will have a contract with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an honorary contract with Imperial College London. Honorary contracts normally run concurrently with the substantive contract and are issued to allow trainees to work in the organisation where they do not have a substantive contract.

Contracts will be issued by the relevant HR department and coordinated at departmental level by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare Trust. There are a number of requirements, checks and different forms to fill out in order to finalise the contracts and it can take some time to complete, so trainees are advised to make contact early and establish who their departmental administrators are to assist them with these tasks. This is particularly important for trainees who are new to the College or Trust who will have to complete a more comprehensive process than those who have been employed by Imperial before.

Clinical Academic trainees will also be required to complete other routine HR new starter and induction formalities such as collection of ID cards and completion of induction training activities such as Information Governance Training and other statutory and mandatory training. 

Funding and bursaries

There are currently three sources of funding available to Imperial NIHR academic clinical fellows to support their research. Each fund has a distinct purpose, eligibility criteria and application process - and all three are coordinated through the CATO. Academic trainees are advised to consider their academic training, research consumables and skills development needs early on in their programmes in order to achieve maximum benefit from the funding available. See our funding webpage for further information. 

The three funding sources for ACFs are listed below: 

  • National Institute of Health Research Trainee Coordinating Centre Bursary (NIHR TCC)
  • Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) funding
  • Research Training Award (RTA)


CATO trainee forums and meetings

During the course of each year, the CATO team organises a number of educational events and other activities which clinical academic trainees are strongly encouraged to attend. These are provided to disseminate information, present trainees with opportunities to ask questions, share information and encourage networking, social interaction and support.

Courses and development

During the course of their clinical academic training ACFs are required to attend a range of generic courses to progress their academic and research skills, teaching skills and personal and professional development. These could be courses or workshops delivered internally by Imperial College London (The Graduate School and the Education Development Unit), Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, or by external providers and other organisations. In many cases, trainees could apply for NIHR/CATO funding to cover the costs of attending these courses. Further details about potential areas of learning can be found in the AHSC CATO guide (PDF).

MSc in Genomic Medicine

In recognition of the major impact that genomics is expected to have on healthcare research and delivery in future, Imperial College aspires for all its clinical academics to lead the way by having an understanding of this area. Through the CATO our ACFs will be supported to undertake all or part of the new MSc in Genomic Medicine provided by Imperial College London. ACFs are expected to undertake at least two modules from the MSc during the course of their academic programme.

Funding for the MSc in Genomics is currently available through HEE, for more information and how to apply please visit the HEE webpages. Imperial is one of many providers offering the MSc programmes in Genomics. Visit the Imperial College MSc Genomics web pages for more information and the Health Sciences Academy website.

Research Clinician

The Research Clinician website is an interactive site offering posts and comment on current topics and approaches to clinical research. The site is a collaborative venture between the three Local Education and Training Boards (LETB) in London, the Institute of Cancer Research and the London-based providers of clinical academic training. The site brings together tips, advice and experience on a variety of topics written by experts from each partner organisation as well as guest authors. All trainees registered on Imperial College clinical academic training programmes will be registered to use the site.

Support and resources

There are a number of individuals who can help and support doctors during their clinical academic training at Imperial, including the CATO team.

Other clinical academic trainees

Through the events organised by CATO and other occasions arranged by each specialty/division trainees will have an opportunity to meet and network with other trainees following academic programmes at Imperial. Trainees are encouraged to take full advantage of these opportunities to meet and stay in touch with others who are in similar situations to themselves, to share experiences and offer and benefit from some peer support.

Departmental administrators

Each of the schools, institutes and departments at Imperial College has administrative divisional/specialty teams who will be able to help academic trainees during their time at Imperial College. To find an up to date list of contacts, visit the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine web pages and search for the administration teams in the Departments section of the Faculty of Medicine.

CATO Guide

The CATO Guide (June 2016) is an extensive resource of information about the programme at Imperial, and a useful and important ‘how to guide’ for trainees undertaking the IAT pathway. If you have any further questions please email the CATO team,