Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) are clinical Dental Core or Specialty Training posts that incorporate academic training.


Applicants applying to Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) linked to Dental Core or Dental Specialty Training will need to meet the criteria in both the clinical and ACF person specifications.

Applicants applying for ACFs associated with Primary Dental Care will need to meet both the ACF person specification and the local person specification.

The ACF person specification can be found on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) site.

Applicants are required to demonstrate appropriate competence in both an academic and a clinical interview for the programme to which they are applying.

Applicants applying for NIHR ACFs who require benchmarking must complete and submit both an academic application form and the associated clinical application form (through the normal recruitment process on Oriel) for the programme in which they will require benchmarking.

Any academic offers made will be conditional upon meeting the appointability threshold at the clinical interview.

If you have a National Training Number (NTN)

Applicants who currently hold a National Training Number (NTN) in the appropriate programme will not be required to attend a further clinical interview. These applicants will only be required to attend the integrated clinical-academic interview as they will have met the requirements of the clinical interview previously.

Applying for a dental NIHR ACF post

NIHR ACF posts are allocated annually to Integrated Academic Training (IAT) partnerships comprising an NHS England (NHSE) local office, Higher Education Institute (HEI) and NHS organisation.

The recruitment process is managed by the relevant NHSE local office in the IAT partnerships and advertisements will appear on their websites, Oriel, and potentially also in other professional publications, for example the British Dental Journal.

  • Application form
    You'll need to complete the ACF application form for the ACF posts advertised in the relevant specialties and levels through Oriel.
  • Specialty training application form
    ACF applicants who require clinical benchmarking if they were successful at the ACF interview will need to complete the relevant specialty training application when the national recruitment application window opens.

Following assessment of the ACF applications, shortlisted applicants will be invited for ACF interviews (also sometimes known as the ‘academic’ interview) by the NHSE local office hosting the ACF post.

The ACF interview has several components assessing the clinical–academic potential of the applicant and the panel will include relevant clinical academic representatives from the hosting HEI. Appointable applicants at the ACF interviews will be ranked and, subject to national clinical benchmarking, the top ranked applicant will be offered the ACF post when offers are made.

Conditional offers will be given to successful applicants at the ACF interviews who did not already hold an NTN in the GDC specialty and level to which they are applying. The condition of the offer relates to the clinical benchmarking in the GDC specialty of the ACF post to which they are applying.

If the top ranked applicant at the ACF interviews requires clinical benchmarking, then reserve appointable applicants from the ACF interview will also be invited for clinical benchmarking if required. An unconditional offer to reserve applicants, who passed clinical benchmarking, is dependent on the applicants ranked higher at the ACF interviews withdrawing to failing clinical benchmarking.

ACF applicants will be ranked and offered on their performance at the ACF interview and not the national standard clinical interview where they just need to pass the clinical benchmark. If applicants require clinical benchmarking then the NHSE local office hosting the ACF post will need to ensure that the national recruitment team are made aware of this in a timely manner, applicants should have been advised to apply to the relevant national recruitment.


Clinical benchmarking relates to applicants reaching the threshold of appointability at the national standard clinical interviews/assessments for the GDC specialty and level of the ACF post for which they are applying. Applicants deemed successful at clinical benchmarking will maintain this status for the entire recruitment year (until the date of the interview for the next recruitment round).

Applicants who fail to reach the appointability threshold at clinical benchmarking will be ineligible for appointment to the ACF post in that recruitment round. Under these circumstances, the conditional ACF offer will be withdrawn.

Applicants who fail clinical benchmarking and become ineligible are still able to reapply in future recruitment rounds.

Not all applicants will need to attend clinical benchmarking. If the applicant already holds an NTN in the same GDC specialty as their NIHR ACF application, there is no need for them to attend a national clinical assessment/interview as they will have previously met the required clinical standard.

If you hold an NTN in a different GDC specialty to the ACF you're applying for

If you hold an NTN in a different GDC specialty to the ACF you're applying for, you will be required to attend clinical benchmarking. Although you have met the required standard in a national clinical interview previously, it was not in the same GDC specialty.

Different specialties assess different skills and competences at interview and so it should not be assumed that success in 1 clinical interview is appropriate for all specialties.

Required standard for NIHR ACF candidates undergoing clinical benchmarking

Applicants who do not hold an NTN will need to be assessed and interviewed through the relevant national process for the specialty. The applicant will be required to reach the threshold of "appointability" at national selection assessment or interview. They do not need to have been ranked high enough to have received a specialty training post i.e. "appointed".

Applicants that do not reach the appointable score threshold at national selection assessment/interview will have their ACF offer (or place on reserve list) withdrawn.

The benchmarking process

A diagram showing the process for benchmarking ACF applicants.
  1. ACF post advertised and NIHR informed
  2. ACF 'academic' interview
  3. Ranking of appplicants at ACF interview

The outcome of the interview is dependent on the need for benchmarking / National Training Number (NTN).

If the top ranked candidate has an NTN or is already benchmarked, we'll make an unconditional offer.

If the top ranked candidate has no NTN and is not benchmarked, a conditional offer to the top ranked candidate will be made. Other appointable candidates will proceed to national benchmarking if required. Subject to successful benchmarking, a candidate will be appointed, otherwise the top ranked reserve candidate will be appointed.

Page last reviewed: 23 December 2021

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