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Skills & careers

Clinical Research Training Fellowship (CRTF)

From January 2018 there will be three opportunities per year to apply for a clinical research training fellowship. See the deadlines page for details of future opportunities to apply for both the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral arms of the scheme.

Purpose of scheme

The CRTF supports clinicians, including (but not limited to) medics, surgeons, dentists, clinical psychologists, public health specialty trainees, allied health professionals, nurses, midwives and veterinarians, to undertake a PhD or other higher research degree.

The scheme also provides a route for post-doctoral applicants who achieved their PhD some time ago but who have not been research active since due to clinical training commitments to reacquire research skills.

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Applications are welcome across all areas of the MRC’s remit to improve human health. Applications may range from basic studies with relevance to mechanisms of disease to translational and developmental clinical research, and may address research questions from disease-specific mechanistic hypotheses through to research in priority areas such as population health, public health and molecular pathology as outlined in MRC’s strategic plan. Applications addressing global health issues resulting in primary benefit to those living in low and middle income countries (LMIC), or those proposing interdisciplinary approaches are also welcomed

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CRTFs are usually 3 years. The minimum tenure of a CRTF  is 2 years. Up to 4 years’ funding is available for patient-orientated CRTFs where the project will require significant amounts of patient contact.

All periods are based on full time equivalents, and awards may be held on a part-time basis to meet personal commitments. Awards may not be held part-time basis due to other professional commitments. 

Take-up date for the fellowship is between 1-6 months of the meeting decision date which is displayed on our deadlines page.

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Joint funding

Recognising the importance of a mixed economy in funding for clinical research training, in addition to their clinical PhD Programmes the Wellcome Trust has entered a partnership with the MRC to increase the funding available for clinical PhDs via the MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship scheme. 

The MRC is also proud to collaborate with a number of Royal Colleges and charity funders to offer jointly funded CRTF awards each round. These awards offer the prestige of having the relevant organisation co-fund your fellowship and may offer additional opportunities to report on your project, present your work at meetings and for professional networking.

All applications are considered in open competition; therefore a request for joint funding will have no effect on the outcome of your application. To apply for joint funding, applicants must upload the joint funding form (DOCX, 62KB) as part of their cover letter.

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Pre-doctoral applicants:

The main aim of the CRTF scheme is to support clinicians to undertake a higher research degree (PhD or MD). Suitable candidates include (but are not limited to) medics, surgeons, dentists clinical psychologists, public health specialty trainees, allied health professionals, nurses, midwives and veterinarians.

  • A CRTF aims to support the whole period of the PhD (or equivalent) project. Applicants should demonstrate ownership of their project and ambition to pursue a clinical academic career path, but are not expected to have started their PhD.
  • Applicants who have started their research project may be considered, but all proposals must meet the scheme’s 2-year minimum duration and a substantive part of the project must remain. Generally applicants should have spent less than 12 months (or FTE) working on their PhD project at the proposed start date of their fellowship.
    • Applicants who will have dedicated more than 12 months to their PhD before starting the fellowship, should explain within their proposal why they are a suitable candidate for a CRTF.
    • Proposals from applicants who will have spent significantly more than 12 months on their PhD project by their proposed start date will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
  • Applicants do not need to have held a position with formal research time (e.g. an academic foundation or academic clinical fellowship (ACF) post).
  • Clinically qualified applicants are expected to be undertaking their specialty training and have completed their Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) (or equivalent) exams.
  • Applicants should be at an appropriate point in their clinical training to undertake a PhD,  and should have clear plans for the completion of their specialty training. Applicants should consult their deanery about undertaking a PhD and their plans to complete specialty training before developing an application.
  • Veterinarians may apply where they have equivalent qualifications to those above and providing their project is of relevance to human health.
  • Clinical Psychologists must have obtained a professional Doctorate-level qualification in Clinical Psychology accredited by the British Psychological Society before taking up their award.
  • Nurses, midwives and members of the allied health professions must have completed their professional training and hold a research Masters degree, or equivalent postgraduate research-oriented qualification.

Post-doctoral applicants:

A secondary arm to the CRTF scheme offers applicants who obtained their PhD some time ago but have not been research active since a valuable opportunity to reacquire research skills and develop outputs to then be competitive at the Clinician Scientist Fellowship level.

  • Applicants will be clinically qualified individuals who received a PhD (or equivalent) usually five or more years ago.
  • Applicants will be at a similar career stage to pre-doctoral applicants, as outlined in the section above.
  • Applicants will not have undertaken substantial periods of academic research since their PhD. Applicants who have held/hold an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship or equivalent since their PhD may be considered.
  • Applicants who have completed a PhD within the last few years are not suitable to apply for a CRTF, and should consider the Clinician Scientist Fellowship .
  • Post-doctoral applicants should confirm they are suitable for consideration by contacting fellowship team before beginning their application.

Career breaks, flexible working (PDF, 40KB) and changes in discipline will be taken into account when assessing research experience to date and track record.

Non-European Economic Area Applicants and Tier 1 visas

Successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route. The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa. UKRI is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Exceptional Talent visa. Please contact fellowtier1info@rcuk.ac.uk for further details.

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Funding provided

Pre-doctoral fellowships:

The CRTF provides:

  • Salary costs commensurate with your stage of training, up to but not including NHS consultant level
  • Up to £20,000 per year. This may cover consumables, equipment, conference travel, PhD and other course fees. 

Certain costs may be requested in addition to the £20,000 per annum:

  1. the costs incurred by undertaking training at an overseas centre/2nd centre/industry placement
  2. the purchase and maintenance cost of animals (excluding additional experimental costs, related consumables, project licences etc, which must be requested within the £20,000 per annum)
  3. costs associated with healthy volunteer studies, where commensurate costs for patient studies would be met by local clinical research networks

Only these costs can be applied for above the £20,000 per annum limit. There is no limit on the costs that can be requested under these 3 headings, however the overall costs requested should be at a level appropriate to support a PhD project.

Proposals requesting costs outside the £20,000 per annum limit which do not fall into the above categories will not be considered.
Further information is available in the Guidance for Fellowship Applicants and CRTF FAQs.

Post-doctoral fellowships:

At the post-doctoral level, the fellowship provides a salary, commensurate with the stage of training, up to but not including NHS consultant level, research expenses, and travel costs at an appropriate level for the research, under full economic costing (FEC).

There are no limits for the costs post-doctoral CRTF proposals may request, though in costing proposals applicants should consider that their application will be considered in open competition with pre-doctoral applications.

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Non-fellowship activities

All MRC fellowship schemes provide full salary support, allowing fellows protected time to concentrate on their research, training and development. As part of a full-time award, fellows may spend up to six hours a week (pro-rated for part-time fellows) on other commitments (eg teaching, demonstrating, other funded projects) or may undertake up to two clinical sessions a week. For patient-orientated projects where the clinical sessions undertaken will be of direct relevance to the research, applicants may request up to four years’ funding and undertake up to four clinical sessions a week.

We recognise the challenges faced by clinicians in combining research training with the demands of a clinical career. We therefore operate the scheme as flexibly as possible, with the extent of the fellow’s clinical commitment negotiable depending on the specialty and the needs of the research. Applicants planning to undertake more than two clinical sessions a week during their fellowship are advised to contact MRC head office prior to submission.

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Benefits of being a MRC fellow

Beyond the fellowship award, MRC fellows enjoy a range of opportunities to develop their skills and networks. For more information on the opportunities available, read more about what to expect as a fellow.

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Deadlines and submission details

  • The CRTF competition is held twice a year. Application deadline dates can be found on the deadlines page.
  • The Applying for a Fellowship page, Guidance for Fellowship Applicants page, Applicant skills and experience table and CRTF FAQs page should be carefully consulted in preparing an application, as applications which differ from the requested format may be rejected without review. If you have further questions after reading these pages, please email the fellowship team.
  • Please read the skills and experience required carefully.  In conjunction with your host institution, you should evaluate your track record and assess whether you meet the skills and experience required for a given scheme prior to applying. If you still need further guidance you may contact the relevant Programme Manager via the fellowships email address to confirm your suitability for any MRC fellowship scheme. To enable us to advise, you must include your CV (using the correct CV template (DOCX, 33KB)), a one page project outline and a list of publications with your enquiry.

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