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An Oxford-UCL study of the career plans of doctors doing PhDs has been published in BMJ Open: ‘The clinical academic workforce of the future: a cross-sectional study of factors influencing career decision-making among clinical PhD students at two research-intensive UK universities’.

Lighthouse, Sydney© JLopes

The study examined the demographic and training characteristics, career intentions and career preparedness of clinical DPhil/PhD students enrolled at Oxford and UCL. It also looked at what influences them as they plan their future careers.

Given concerns about dwindling numbers of clinical academics, in the UK and internationally, the aim was to identify ways in which clinical academic careers may be better supported.

The research team, of OUCAGS and UCL researchers, found that:

  • The career progression of postdoctoral clinical academics could be enhanced by relaxing eligibility criteria for clinical lecturer (CL) posts – the first postdoctoral posts in the Integrated Academic Training pathway). These posts are often only open to doctors still in training, whereas researchers found that many postdoctoral clinicians have completed training, or nearly done so, and do not currently gain the opportunity the post offers to develop as independent researchers. 
  • Supporting clinical academic careers should include focused career support for clinical doctoral students since, for instance, many are not well informed about CL posts. 
  • Encouraging doctors to have multiple predoctoral research experiences may improve the number of those wanting a clinical academic career. 
  • Identifying ways to create more senior posts would also be helpful. Indeed, the lack of such posts is perceived as a disincentive to pursuing a clinical academic career.


Denise Best, OUCAGS Associate Director, said:

“Establishing a stable pipeline of clinical academics, who can make fundamental contributions to realising improvements in healthcare, continues to be a concern in the UK and internationally.”

“The study’s insights will be of interest to both UK and international audiences looking to promote the clinical research workforce. The challenges faced by our participants of combining clinical and academic work, and achieving career progression alongside work-life balance, are universal.”


Read the paper on BMJ Open

Download a summary of the findings

Read about OUCAGS' ongoing study: Clinical DPhil Paths – a study of the career plans of clinical DPhil students (2013-18)