Providing the opportunity to engage in contemporary research topics and work with leading academics in the field.
The Computer Science Research Institute (CSRI) comprises research active academic staff from three Schools in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering: Schools of Computing and Information Engineering (at Coleraine), Computing and Intelligent Systems (at Magee), and Computing and Mathematics (at Jordanstown), together with approximately 30 research associates and research fellows, and around 70 doctoral research students.
The University welcomes applicants interested in researching knowledge engineering and data analytics, applications in healthcare modelling, computer vision, next generation networks, pattern recognition, semantic analytics, security-based scenario recognition, pervasive and mobile computing, behavioural analysis, activity recognition, and assistive technologies, ambient assisted living, wearable technologies, cognitive robotics, computational neuroscience, biologically-inspired computation, and brain computer interfaces.
About this course
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Computer Science is a highly competitive discipline, involving all of the leading universities. Computer Science at Ulster continues to be in the top 25% in the UK for research power, ranked 21st out of 89 UK universities in the recently published national assessment of research quality, REF2014 (Research Excellence Framework – www.ref.ac.uk), with 90% of our Research Environment being rated as world- leading or internationally excellent. The recognition by REF2014 of Ulster’s research excellence in Computer Science provides a strong foundation for the activities of our expanding Research Institute.
State-of-the-art research facilities are provided by a number of significant strategic initiatives - these include leading-edge robotics laboratories in the Intelligent Systems Research Centre and 4 sensorised environments in the Smart Environments Research Group.
CSRI’s research directions are strategically aligned with EPSRC Industry Sectors: Healthcare, Software and Telecommunications, and EU Information Society Technologies initiatives in empowerment of the citizen through ICT, e-governance, healthy aging and independent living, and biologically inspired information systems.
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
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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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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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).
ApplyHow 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)
Home and EU £4260
Home and EU £1540
Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2200
Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6600
Research facilities and groups
Artificial Intelligence and Applications(AIA) Research Group (at Jordanstown)
The main research themes in artificial intelligence and applications focus on aspects of Knowledge and Data Engineering: these include machine intelligence; semantic analytics; machine learning and pattern recognition; temporal reasoning; probability and uncertainty reasoning; intelligent decision support; information retrieval. Applications include work on video analytics and scenario recognition; bioinformatics and complex networks; ambient intelligence; and software complexity metrics; text mining to extract argumentation structure and application to document reuse and software defect analysis.
Information & Communication Engineering (ICE) Research Group (at Coleraine)
Research in Information & Communication Engineering is focused on knowledge and data engineering, telecommunications network management, cloud computing, image processing and computer vision, healthcare systems modelling and games development. Strong collaborations exist with interdisciplinary research groups to facilitate research in medical and biomedical imaging applications, and with healthcare trusts and national and international partners for research in healthcare management systems. Through leadership of the India-UK Advanced Technologies Centre for Next Generation Networks (IU-ATC), there are strong connections with the telecommunications industry, including BT-funded EPSRC CASE studentships and research student internships.
Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC, at Magee)
The Intelligent Systems Research Centre, established in 2007, represents a significant commitment to leading-edge research infrastructure. The Centre provides a state-of-the-art research environment, including laboratories for bio-inspired and neuro-engineering, brain- computer interfacing, computational neuroscience, cognitive robotics, and instrumentation, along with facilities for research in ambient intelligence and wireless sensor networks. The Centre has an extensive array of leading-edge robotic devices and a newly-installed MEG scanner, and focuses on research in cognitive robotics, computational neuroscience, biologically inspired computation, wireless technology/ambient intelligence, and brain- computer interfacing.
Smart Environments Research Group (SERG, at Jordanstown)
Research within CSRI in smart environments and ambient assisted living incorporates networked environments (structure and sensors in buildings, clothing and personal devices) and intelligent processing (data mining, pattern recognition, decision support, context prediction, data fusion, and multimodal interaction). Much of the research focuses on behavioural monitoring (through environmental and biometric sensors) and activity recognition, with application to assistive technologies for smart homes, independent living, and healthcare monitoring and diagnosis. Research is supported by new laboratory facilities for deployment of sensing technology in connected health care, including body scanner, eye-tracking, and other state-of-the-art devices.
Contact: Professor Chris Nugent
Director of Computer Science Research Institute
Tel: +44 (0)28 90 368330
Contact: Professor Sonya Coleman
Head of Research Graduate School Computing and Engineering
Tel: +44 (0)28 7012 5030
For more information visit
“I started my PhD at Ulster University in September 2009 and successfully defended my thesis in December 2012. The experience of studying at Ulster University was extremely positive. The faculty of Computing and Engineering has lecturers and professors who are experts in their fields. There were many stimulating seminars and presentations given by both internal and external speakers. Many social events were organised by the Faculty that enabled networking with other PhD students. I was encouraged and supported to present and publish my work, and I got an amazing experience of attending several very good conferences. My supervisors were excellent: they were experts in their areas and gave me great support along the way. Doing a PhD away from home was not easy in many ways, but I could not ask for a better environment for undertaking my postgraduate research study.”
Dr. Anna Jurek – PhD graduate (AIA)
(Since graduating, Anna has worked as a KTP Associate, working collaboratively between industry and Ulster University and is currently a Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.)
“Completing my PhD at Ulster provided me with many exciting experiences and challenges. My supervisors continuously encouraged and provided me with many opportunities to become involved in multidisciplinary research and teaching activities. As a graduate student I embraced the wider academic environment, publishing and presenting my research at a number of international forums. This allowed me to gain valuable experience which has been vital to the progression of my career in academic research. On completion of my PhD I had a clearer vision of my career path and the skills with which I could achieve it.”
Dr. Ian Cleland – PhD graduate (SERG)
(Since graduating Ian worked as a Research associate on a number of research projects at Ulster University. He is currently a Research Fellow within the Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) at Ulster.)
I am a final year PhD student studying at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at the Magee Campus. I have been very fortunate to complete my research within the robotics lab of the ISRC which is one of the best equipped in the EU, with state-of-the-art facilities. My supervisors have been extremely supportive and have strong research backgrounds which in turn has helped me greatly to develop as a researcher. The PhD experience is challenging and difficult at times but is always extremely interesting and rewarding and over the PhD program has been a great experience for me to date.
Emmett Kerr – currently a year 3 PhD student (ISRC)
“Life as a graduate student at Ulster proved a very positive experience, and enabled me to develop academic research skills and gain valuable experience of working within multidisciplinary environments. Graduate students at Ulster are supported and encouraged by their supervisors, the wider academic environment, and the external experts they collaborate with. I left Ulster with a strong vision and a skill set which has subsequently helped me secure employment within both industry and academic sectors.”
Dr. Kathy Clawson – PhD graduate (ICE)
(Since graduating, Kathy has worked in industry and as a Research Associate at both Queens University Belfast and Ulster University. She is currently a Lecturer in Computing at Middlesbrough College)