Medical academics support wider access to academic foundation programme

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  12 May 2012

The number of places on the academic foundation programme should be increased, and posts should be made more available to applicants without previous formal research experience, medical academics have agreed.

Delegates at the BMA’s conference of medical academic representatives debated the availability of research opportunities for medical students and supported increasing the opportunities for academic experience within the foundation programme.

The chairman of the BMA’s Northern Ireland medical students committee, Luke Boyle, argued that the current approach to recruiting for academic foundation programme places relies too heavily on research experience at university, such as a research degree and evidence of publication, which disadvantages medical students who come to research towards the end of their degree.

In addition, the cost of studying an extra year for an intercalated BSc might put students off an academic career, and more should be done to encourage trainees who haven’t followed this path to step into academia, said Lucy-Jane Davies, an academic clinical fellow in public health at the University of Bristol.

“I know of many people who really really want to do [academic medicine], but they have no publications and no previous experience, and they can’t break into this,” she said. “It’s a case of opening it out and making academic medicine much more appealing to a broader group of people.”

Other speakers argued that trainees would do better to get more research experience at undergraduate level rather than aim for a place on the academic foundation programme, which would limit their experience of a broad range of specialties within the foundation programme.

Having some sort of research background will also ensure that people “know what they are getting in to” when they apply to the academic foundation programme, suggested another delegate.

The conference narrowly passed a motion calling for an increase in the number of academic foundation programme posts and a fair and transparent applications system for the programme.

Delegates also carried motions calling for posts to be available to applicants without previous formal research experience; the development of tools to help identify those with clinical research potential so that more people with such potential are shortlisted for interview; and the continued use of interviews for academic foundation programme posts.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: