The longest-established academic Communication department in the UK, with a vibrant research tradition that produces internationally excellent work.


Over nearly four decades researchers in Media Studies at Ulster have been at the forefront of the development and growth of the discipline. Ulster pioneered research led teaching in Media Studies in the late 1970s, and since then Ulster researchers have played a key and direct role in the establishment of the first RAE panel in the subject in 1996 and in subsequent research exercises such as RAE 2008.

In its current form, The Centre For Media Research was established in 2004 with a £3.1 million grant under the Support Programme for University Research (SPUR2). Building on this significant success, Ulster research in Media was ranked tenth best in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). In the 2014 REF, the research profile for Media Studies showed that 60% of all work has been judged as being of ‘international excellence’; within this proportion, 21% is judged as having the highest accolade: ‘world leading’. The unit also scored highly in the Impact section of the REF, with 100% of its impact case studies scored at 4*/3*.

About this course

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Looking forward to the next REF and beyond, The Centre For Media Research at Ulster is supporting and developing the work of a new generation of researchers in three related areas of activity: 1) emerging media, pedagogy and creative industries; 2) critical theory, critical regionalism, public culture and media policy; and, 3) the politics of the image in Ireland and beyond. We welcome applications from students working in these areas (broadly construed).

Applicants should indicate the research area or project they wish to be considered for. Applicants are also encouraged to contact the supervisors associated with particular projects and research areas before applying.

Applicants should be aware of the competitive nature of the funding competition, which attracts a high number of good quality applications each year for a limited number of awards.


As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

How to apply

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

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Entry Requirements

You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants

The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).


How to apply

Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.

Once you have selected your chosen project from the lists available on the Faculty pages, you are advised to make contact with the named supervisor on the project as they will be able to guide you in writing your research proposal.

You should then apply using our online application system: ulster.ac.uk/applyonline

Fees and funding

A number of funded scholarships are available across the University each year for PhD projects. Applications for studentships will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate's qualifications, skills, experience and interests.

Sources of funding

Fees (per annum)

Full Time:

Home and EU £4260

Overseas £14210

Part Time:

Home and EU £1540

Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2200

Overseas £8100

Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6600

Research facilities and groups

  • Purpose-built Communication Skills Centre, used for teaching and research, comprising a suite of 12 rooms (6 x 2-room laboratories) all of which are equipped with the latest digital CCTV recording facilities to enable video-recording and analysis of dyadic and group interactional episodes.
  • Studio-based CCTV with the full range of sophisticated video-audio equipment, related computer-mediated analysis facilities, and portable video-audio recording equipment. Range of specialist computer-mediated systems to facilitate the fine-grained coding and analysis of verbal and nonverbal interaction.
  • Fully-equipped computer laboratories with integrated facilities for the design and production of advanced communication materials, together with sophisticated video-audio recording equipment, and related computer-mediated facilities, which enables fine-grained coding and analysis of verbal and nonverbal interaction.

Students and staff have 24-hour access to a large library of books, journals and IT resources. A team of technicians, library and computing staff provide support and training all year round. Doctoral students have designated rooms with computers, networking and a social space and access to state- of-the art equipment and studios. These facilities and support are available for research fellows and visiting scholars.

Staff research areas

Dr Jill Hendron

Dr Hendron is a lecturer in Counselling at Jordanstown. She has published in the areas of vicarious impact, resilience, clergy psychological wellbeing, counselling practice and Emotional Intelligence. She is particularly interested in the impact upon individuals through helping those who have been impacted by crisis and in the complexities associated with the grief process. Also included in her research interests is the use of Emotional Intelligence abilities as a resilience tool. Jill is an accredited Emotional Intelligence trainer and assessor and an accredited Compassion Fatigue specialist.

Dr Maggie Long

Dr Long is a lecturer in Counselling and an associate member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS). Her research interests include mental health, with a specific focus on self-harm and suicide. She employs an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and researching mental health that draws on sociology and psychology. She is particularly interested in sociological concepts such as help-seeking, labelling, stigma and deviance in relation to mental health. She has a keen interest in promoting the link between research and practice in the field of counselling in Northern Ireland.

Dr Aodheen McCartan

Dr McCartan has published in the areas of marketing, business communication and cross-community communication. Within the areas of marketing and business communication, she has engaged in research in small firm marketing, focusing on how owner- managers use the process of networking to further their businesses. She is presently engaged in research in the financial services sector, exploring the nature of relationships between banks and businesses and to what extent online communication, including social media, can improve service quality. She is also researching in the field of advertising, examining the concept of likeability and its impact on effectiveness.

Dr Conor McGrath

Dr McGrath teaches public relations and lobbying. He has published in the areas of: lobbying strategy and tactics; the regulation of lobbying around the world; the historical evolution and development of the lobbying industry; lobbying as a form of political communication; and public affairs as an organisational function. Recent projects include newspaper coverage of Northern Irish politics; fictional representations of lobbying and PR; and media coverage of lobbying and PR. He is also working on the professionalisation of the lobbying industry, lobbying in Northern Ireland, and British political communication.

Dr Anne Moorhead

Dr Anne Moorhead is a Lecturer in Health Communication. Her research interest is in Healthcare Communications, in particularly, communication technologies in healthcare within the areas of obesity and mental health, including social media. Dr. Moorhead has led multidisciplinary national and international research projects and teams, and has extensive publications. She is a member on different committees, including the Executive Committee of the Association for Healthcare Communications and Marketing (AHCM) UK, research committee for the European Association for Communication in Healthcare, and Vice Chair of Office of Research Ethics Committees for Northern Ireland, NHS Research Ethics Committee. She is a Board member and Section Editor for the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the leading e-health peer reviewed journal.

Dr Phil Ramsey

Dr Ramsey’s research focuses on media policy and public service media in the UK. He has published on subjects that have included: BBC Online policy in relation to the BBC’s Public Purposes; BBC Radio Ulster; and the move online of BBC Three. Related research interests have focused on political communication in the UK, especially on government communication under New Labour. In this field he has published on subjects such as public relations and politics, the work of the Government Communication network, and on public sphere theory in light of deliberative democracy and agonistic pluralism.


Dr Anne Moorhead

School of Communication

Email: a.moorhead@ulster.ac.uk

Tel: 02890368905

For more information visit

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


“I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies at Ulster University. While I really enjoyed the process of reading around my topic area of crowd behaviour and football supporters in first year, the hands on experience of conducting fieldwork in second year has been fantastic. I have travelled to Hungary, Greece, Romania, Faroe Islands and Finland to research the fandom culture around the Northern Ireland international football team. Ulster University has been fantastic in supporting me in my PhD research, funding my fieldtrips abroad.

My skills as a researcher have developed throughout my PhD, thanks in no small part to the excellent guidance provided by my supervisors and the training and support available from the University. The PhD office also provides a great atmosphere and a fantastic learning environment with other students. I feel much more confident in my own abilities now than when I started out as a result of all of this support, and I would recommend Ulster University to any student at any level of study. I've enjoyed my PhD so much that I only wish I could go back into first year and start it all over again!”

John Bell PhD student

"Studying a PhD can seem daunting at first as it is an individual piece of work, however you are never alone in your journey to completion. The shared office environment provides opportunities for shared learning, collaboration and most importantly support and team spirit. Supervisors are always on hand as experts in your area to guide you through the process with additional support and funding available for conferences, fieldwork and access to professional academic training."

Susan Armstrong PhD student