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Research approval in subspecialty training

The aim of the research component of the subspecialty training programme is to ensure you are competent in the design and execution of a research study of sufficient quality to meet internationally recognised standards of research excellence, such as those published in the Medical Research Council's Good research practice policies and guidance – UKRI.

You will need to demonstrate expertise in clinical and/or laboratory research methodology including the ability to:

  • critically to assess research papers
  • design and run a research project
  • understand statistical methods
  • be aware of the ethical issues involved in research

You need to either:

  • complete the research component of the subspecialty training programme or
  • obtain research exemption through published output.

Please note that you will still be expected to undertake research during your subspecialty training, even if you have fulfilled the research criteria before entering the programme.


The following are required to complete the research component of subspecialty training:

  • Completion of a research or academic programme that has led to the award of an MD (Res) or PhD thesis, OR
  • Publication of two first-author papers of original research in citable, refereed MEDLINE journals, OR
  • Satisfactory completion of the Advanced Professional Module (APM)

If you have achieved these research competencies before the start of subspecialty training, you may apply for research exemption. A request for research exemption must be submitted to the Subspecialty Committee for an approval when you register for subspecialty training or within the first 6 months of the registered start date of subspecialty training.

If you do not fulfil the research exemption requirement on registration, or within the first 6 months of the registered start date, you will enter a 3-year full time equivalent programme to achieve both research and clinical competences stipulated in the subspecialty programme. The subspecialty programme timetable will be made up of third research and two-thirds clinical allocated time to enable you to achieve both the research and clinical requirements for subspecialty accreditation.

Conversion to a 2-year programme will not be approved for any applications for research exemption submitted after 6 months of registered start date.

If you achieve the research component after the first 6 months of registered start date, you can apply for a possible reduction in research training time by submitting an application to the Subspecialty Committee. Please see the Subspecialty training FAQs for more information.

The application must be supported by the Subspecialty Training Programme Supervisor, panel at the RCOG centralised subspecialty assessment, Head of School and local ARCP processes. This application is subject to approval by the Subspecialty Committee. Any reduction in overall programme length would be proportionate to how much of the clinical time has been lost completing the research component training up to the date of completion of research component full time equivalent.

Progress in training, clinical and research, will be assessed through the RCOG centralised subspecialty assessment process. It is advised that trainees do not apply to bring their subspecialty training completion date forward once research component is achieved unless there is no concerns about progress with clinical training and are progressing satisfactorily with their training.


  • Your MD (Res)/PhD must be relevant to subspecialty training  and practice in the UK, and demonstrate a period of supervised research training and output which led to the award. An MD (Res) awarded from a university outside Great Britain or Ireland would not be considered equivalent to a UK MD (Res)
  • An international PhD may be considered equivalent to a UK PhD if you can provide supporting evidence that a period of supervised research led to the award of your PhD; the Subspecialty Committee requires you to submit the supporting evidence before they can grant equivalence

Published papers

  • Your first-author papers must be relevant to your chosen subspecialty
  • Review articles (other than high-quality systematic reviews, preferably Cochrane Reviews) and case reports are excluded
  • ‘Exceptional’ requests (i.e. a non-first author paper that you wish to be accepted as one paper towards research exemption) will be considered only if you have undertaken a minimum research period of two years, you have completed a fellowship whose primary purpose was to coordinate a trial, or you have submitted supporting evidence of active involvement in all aspects of delivery of the study and authorship of an article published in a high-impact journals such as the  New England Journal of MedicineThe LancetBMJ or Nature

Failure to achieve the minimum research criteria

If you do reach the end of subspecialty training without satisfying the research criteria, you will be offered a maximum 6-month extension to complete the research element, at the discretion of your Postgraduate Dean.

If you reach the end of the 6-month extension without completing the research component, the RCOG’s Subspecialty Committee will not award you subspecialty accreditation unless there are extenuating circumstances. Award of your CCT will be at the discretion of your Local Education Training Board / Deanery, although this would probably involve a further period of general training.

See also

How subspecialty training is assessed

Elsewhere on the site