Frequently Asked Questions
List of FAQs (please click on a title to be directed to that section)
- Can I apply to ICAT if I have already started a PhD?
- Can dentists and vets apply to ICAT?
- I am a fully qualified doctor and I am interested in doing a PhD, can I apply to ICAT?
- How many years of training prior to CSCST should I have remaining?
- Can I apply to ICAT to part-fund an existing research project?
- Can I apply for ICAT when I am enrolled in basic specialist training (BST)?
- What are the eligibility criteria for trainees in General Practice?
- How do applicants find a supervisor?
- Should referees be people who have been involved in supervising prior research work, or can I choose a clinical referee?
- Do most applicants hold a Master’s or intercalated degree?
- One of my referees is unable to submit a reference by the deadline, can I have an extension?
- What is the shortlisting process for ICAT?
- Are trainees in specialties listed as 'currently underrepresented in clinical academia' in the application call more likely to be appointed to ICAT?
- What is the interview process for ICAT?
- Can I apply to ICAT if I am training in a specialty that does not rotate through hospitals, such as Public Health Medicine?
- Can I apply to ICAT from outside the UK or Ireland?
- I note that applicants must be on a postgraduate training scheme in Northern Ireland or RoI. Can I apply if I am on a postgraduate scheme in another region of the UK?
- I am currently a trainee in Northern Ireland. If I am successful in my application for a fellowship and pursue a PhD with a research group in the Republic of Ireland, how will this affect my clinical training?
- What salary do ICAT fellows receive?
- Do I have to do a lab-based PhD project?
- What does ICAT fund?
- Does ICAT fund maternity leave?
- For specialties that require dual training with general internal medicine (GIM) for CSCST, is it possible to do year one in a GIM post prior to starting the PhD?
- I am currently in the 3rd year of my higher specialist training (HST) programme. If I apply for ICAT now, will my previous training be accredited?
- As part of my training programme, I am expected to complete a clinical fellowship during my final year of training – can I do this fellowship abroad?
Can I apply to ICAT if I have already started a PhD?No, you are not eligible to apply to ICAT if you are already enrolled in a PhD. ICAT fellowships also cannot be used to extend an MD into a PhD. Applicants who have already completed a PhD and are interested in pursuing another PhD may be eligible to apply, but we advise these applicants to contact the programme in advance for advice.
Can dentists and vets apply to ICAT?
ICAT-1 was open only to clinicians with medical degrees and who were enrolled in higher specialist training (cohorts appointed between 2017-2021).
ICAT-2 (for cohorts appointed between 2022-2026) is open to trainees in all specialties in human medicine, surgery, veterinary medicine and dentistry. Eligibility criteria can be found on the Fellowship Call page.
I am a fully qualified doctor and I am interested in doing a PhD, can I apply to ICAT?No. As ICAT is an integrated training programme, we can only accept clinical trainees who have not yet achieved CSCST/CCT.
How many years of training prior to CSCST/CCT should I have remaining?
The ICAT Programme is designed as a six-year programme, with the first structured year normally accredited for training (with 80/20 clinical/academic split), 3 full-time PhD research years (some of which may be prospectively accredited for training) and two remaining years in higher specialist training (HST) prior to award of CSCST.
In exceptional circumstances and with full approval from your postgraduate clinical training body, ICAT can allow fellows to have only one year of HST remaining post-PhD. The reason the programme is specifically designed around a minimum of two years post-PhD clinical training is to enable appropriate preparations for onward career progression after award of CSCST/CCT, including submission / examination of thesis and preparation for postdoctoral awards / funding applications.
If you are unsure of your eligibility, please contact the programme in advance for advice, and please also discuss your potential application with the Dean of your postgraduate clinical training body.
Can I apply to ICAT to part-fund an existing research project?No, ICAT does not part-fund existing research.
Can I apply to ICAT when I am enrolled in basic specialist training (BST)?
If you are in your final year of BST and are applying for higher specialist training (HST) you can apply to ICAT. If you are offered an ICAT fellowship, acceptance of the fellowship is conditional on you gaining a place on HST and on approval from your postgraduate clinical training body. We advise you to notify the HST scheme of your application to ICAT in advance.
What are the eligibility criteria for trainees in General Practice?
Due to the shorter training scheme in General Practice, ICAT offers flexibility in order for trainees to have two opportunities to apply to ICAT. For GP trainees in the Republic of Ireland, they may apply to ICAT at the following stages of their training:
- SHO year 1 – apply to ICAT (if successful, defer fellowship for 1 year)
- SHO year 2 – complete as normal
- SpR year 1 – enter ICAT year 1
- SpR year 2 – post-PhD
- SHO year 1 – apply to ICAT (if unsuccessful, re-apply following year)
- SHO year 2 –re-apply to ICAT
- SpR year 1 – enter ICAT year 1
- SpR year 2 – post-PhD
In cases where a trainee may have only one SHO year due to recognition of prior learning, they may only apply to ICAT when enrolled in the GP training scheme (i.e. in SHO year 2). Trainees may not apply prior to enrolling in the GP training scheme.
For GP trainees in Northern Ireland, please contact us directly for eligibility advice.
How do applicants find a supervisor?
Applicants should not have a defined PhD project when applying, nor are they expected to have chosen a PhD supervisor. During year 1 of ICAT, fellows are mentored and supported to define a research question and identify a multi-disciplinary supervisory team.
However, you are expected to be able to articulate your research interests and you should have some knowledge of the potential ICAT supervisors available across the institutions.
Should referees be people who have been involved in supervising prior research work, or can I choose a clinical referee?Your referees should be in a position to assess and comment on your academic abilities and potential, as requested in the reference form. It is not required that they have directly supervised your research, although this clearly puts them in a good position to assess your potential for this programme.
Do most applicants hold a Master’s or intercalated degree?You do not need a Master’s or intercalated degree to apply to ICAT; some applicants do hold them, but not all.
The ICAT application and interviews are solely based on the excellence of the applicant and you are scored on your educational, research and clinical experience and achievements.
One of my referees is unable to submit a reference by the deadline, can I have an extension?Unfortunately we cannot offer extensions to the deadline for applications or references; this is in the interest of fairness to all candidates and to facilitate the stringent international peer review process for shortlisting applicants.
If one of your referees is unable to provide a reference by the specified date, please approach alternate referees. If you have any specific queries regarding your submission, please contact the programme directly.
What is the shortlisting process for ICAT?
All applications are sent for international review by a minimum of three independent peer reviewers and their scores will be combined. Feedback from the peer reviewers and their scores will be reviewed by the Shortlisting panel to ensure fairness.
The combined application scores will be used to shortlist candidates for interview and all applicants will be given feedback on the application process.
Are trainees in specialties listed as 'currently underrepresented in clinical academia' in the application call more likely to be appointed to ICAT?
ICAT has identified some specialties that are underrepresented in clinical academia in general as well as within ICAT, and strongly encourages trainees in these specialties to apply. ICAT expects that this will increase the number of applications from trainees in these specialties, and therefore increases the likelihood that some may be appointed to the programme.
There is no preference given to trainees from these specialties within the application and interview process. All applicants have to reach a threshold for shortlisting, and have to be considered 'appointable' by the interview panel to be offered a fellowship. There is one ICAT fellowship that is ringfenced for trainees in these identified specialties; however, trainees must reach the threshold for appointment. If there are no trainees from the underserved specialties within the list of appointable candidates, the fellowship will be awarded to another candidate.
There are several fellowships available within each application call and trainees within every specialty are eligible for the majority of these, with only two exceptions - only veterinary candidates are eligible for the Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine (DAFM) fellowships, and only trainees within the College of Anaesthesiology (CAI) are eligible for the CAI fellowships (the latter are also eligible for the general call).
Example of fellowships that may be available in one application call:
- 6 fellowships open to all medical and dental graduates - 'general call'
- 1 fellowship open to a trainees in an identified underrepresented specialty - if not filled by a trainee within one of the identified specialties, this fellowship will be offered to the next highest ranking candidate in the general call
- 1 veterinary fellowship (DAFM-funded)
- 1 fellowship for a trainee enrolled in a College of Anaesthesiologists (CAI) higher specialist training scheme (CAI trainees are also eligible for the general call)
What is the interview process for ICAT?
Shortlisted applicants are invited to interview either online or at a location in Dublin; interviews are generally held in early December. Applicants are invited to give a brief presentation (a title is sent to each candidate in advance of the interview) and then are interviewed by a panel. We strive for gender balance and diversity of research and clinical specialties amongst the panel members; we do not tailor the panels for each candidate.
The interview panels are composed of leading academics and clinicians in Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as international academics. In the interest of fairness, we do not divulge the names of the panel members to any candidates prior to the interviews. Feedback is provided to all interview candidates following the interviews.
ICAT funds exceptional individuals with a strong interest in pursuing a career as a clinical academic; it is not required that you interview with a fully-formed PhD project idea, but it is expected that you are able to discuss in depth your research interests and to explain why ICAT is the right programme for you.
Can I apply to ICAT if I am training in a specialty that does not rotate through hospitals, such as Public Health Medicine?
We hope that ICAT fellowships will be of interest to all postgraduate trainees including Public Health, General Practice and others that are not hospital-based. The ICAT Supervisors have been chosen by each of the academic partners to have a track record of PhD supervision and to be working in biomedical research institutions and centres of relevance to future clinician scientists.
There is an annual review of the supervisor pool by the universities and we endeavour to include those from specialties/research areas currently underrepresented in academia.
Can I apply to ICAT from outside the UK or Ireland?Yes, we welcome applications from clinical trainees internationally. Please be aware that you need to be eligible to enrol in a higher specialist training scheme in either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, and that you must have been offered a place on a training scheme before you accept an offer of an ICAT fellowship.
It is also worth noting that ICAT offers funding for PhD registration fees at the local/EU rate, but any additional fees must be arranged independently; please contact us directly for advice in this regard.
I note that applicants must already be on a postgraduate training scheme in Northern Ireland or RoI. Can I apply if I am on a postgraduate scheme in another region of the UK?
The ICAT programme is open to trainees enrolled in training schemes in the UK and Republic of Ireland at the time of entering ICAT. If you are registered with the GMC as a UK-based trainee, you would be eligible to apply. Year 1 is a combined clinical training and research preparation year and will count towards a CCT if recognized prospectively by the Specialty Advisory Committee of the clinical discipline you are training in.
If successful and you were awarded an ICAT fellowship it would be expected that you would relocate to a training post in either Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland. This is to allow the ICAT Fellow to enjoy all of the opportunities afforded during Year 1 and to develop a robust PhD proposal that is acceptable to the host institution (university) and academic supervisor. Years 2-4 are full-time research with the aim of completing a PhD, and fellows must be registered as PhD students with one of the six ICAT partner universities.
If considering relocation from the UK or further afield, we recommend that you notify us in advance of your application so that we can advise you.
I am currently a trainee in Northern Ireland. If I am successful in my application for a fellowship and pursue a PhD with a research group in the Republic of Ireland, how will this affect my clinical training?Year 1 of the ICAT fellowship would count towards your UK CCT if the clinical training was based in NI (you can be appointed to one ICAT university for Year 1 and then switch to another for your PhD in Years 2-4). Years 2-4 would be your full-time PhD, i.e. out-of-programme research (OOPR). Any clinical training during your PhD would need to be prospectively recognised by the Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC) for your training scheme in the UK. Normally in the UK, only up to 3 months is recognised for clinical training during the total 3-year OOPR period for a PhD.
If you wished to have any clinical training in the Republic of Ireland recognised (during your PhD) this would require prior approval by NIMDTA, as the Northern Ireland Deanery, and should be discussed with your Dean of postgraduate clinical training.
What salary do ICAT fellows receive?
ICAT Fellows continue to progress up the relevant trainee salary payscale (for example, the non-consultant hospital doctor Specialist Registrar scale for most trainees in the Republic of Ireland) during their ICAT fellowship. If a trainee reaches the maximum point on the salary scale, they will remain on that point until CSCST/CCT. Veterinary trainees will receive a university salary.
Does ICAT fund maternity leave?Yes, ICAT will fund maternity leave taken within a fellowship. ICAT is fully flexible for fellows who take a period of leave (incuding maternity leave, long-term sick leave etc.) and will work with the fellow to re-arrange deadlines and pertinent dates such as PhD proposal interviews, where required.
Do I have to do a lab-based PhD project?ICAT Fellows can develop research projects in any area of interest to them, these could include lab-based, data-based, clinical research, qualitative research or blue skies research.
ICAT encourages novel, innovative and multi-sectorial approaches to research and Fellows must be supervised by a cross-disciplinary team across at least two of the ICAT universities as well as international collaborators who can add value to the research.
What does ICAT fund?
If you are successful in the defence of your PhD project proposal in year 1, ICAT will fund a 3-year PhD. PhD costs include a salary, PhD registration fees (at local/EU rate), a contribution to research costs, for example laboratory consumables, and funding towards travel, training, dissemination, outreach activities and public and patient involvement in your research.
ICAT also funds regular Study Days, an annual Retreat, an Induction Event for new fellows and an annual Summer School. Within ICAT-2 (from 2022), fellows may apply for funding towards an international research placement to be undertaken during their PhD.
If a 4-year PhD is required for purposes of your clinical training, the funding for your salary and PhD registration fees for the final year must be sourced independently and approved prior to your appointment as an ICAT Fellow.
For specialties that require dual training with general internal medicine (GIM) for CSCST, is it possible to do year one in a GIM post prior to starting the PhD?
We are flexible in terms of training and it is the responsibility of the postgraduate clinical training body to agree with the format of training within the programme, in particular with respect to GIM versus specialty training accreditation.
The first year of the ICAT programme is 80% clinical and 20% academic, with a focus on protected time. Your trainers and higher specialist training (HST) committee need to be supportive of you achieving this goal and to sign off for high intensity GIM.
ICAT is based on a principal of streamlined clinical and academic training with CSCST/CCT. With this in mind, the post-PhD training period of 1-2 years is considered an important period in academic training and this should be taken into consideration when applying for the programme.
I am currently in the 3rd year of my higher specialist training (HST) programme. If I apply for ICAT now, will my previous training be accredited?
You can apply for ICAT when enrolling in or enrolled on HST; the best time to apply to ICAT is dependent on the length of your training scheme and the stage you are at. For ICAT it is important that you have at least 1-2 years remaining in your specialty training post-PhD.
Year 1 of ICAT is generally fully accredited for clinical training and you can prospectively apply in ROI for up to 1-year accreditation for the 3 years of your PhD; accreditation is at the discretion of your postgraduate clinical training body in ROI.
As part of my training programme, I am expected to complete a clinical fellowship during my final year of training - can I do this fellowship abroad?
Your clinical training is organised by your postgraduate clinical training body, not by the ICAT programme. The structure of ICAT is such that the first year is 80% clinical and 20% academic, during which time you prepare your PhD proposal submission. Upon successful peer review, you enter your PhD years from years 2 to 4 inclusive. You then re-enter your clinical training and a minimum of one year is required prior to completion of specialist training.
It is the decision of your training body where you carry out your clinical training in the final years of the programme. During the PhD research years, short periods abroad can be facilitated on the basis of collaborations between your supervisor and centres of excellence abroad, for research purposes only.