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REF 2014 results show that 96% of nursing and health sciences research at Ulster University is of international excellence or ‘world leading’


Postgraduate Research Education within the School of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences is organised and delivered through the Institute of Nursing and Health Research The Institute is well known nationally and internationally for providing high quality research training, which is relevant to nursing and health practice.

Nursing at Ulster University is in the premier league of universities in the UK and in terms of 4* research (i.e. research that is world- leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour) we are ranked among the top 3 universities. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results show that 96% of nursing and health sciences research at Ulster University is of international excellence or ‘world leading’ and 100% of our research impact and 100% of our research environment are also recognised and world leading or internationally excellent.

The University welcomes applicants interested in researching Health and Rehabilitation Technologies, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Chronic Illnesses, Maternal, Fetal and Infant Research, and Person-centred Practice Research.

About this course

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One of the aims of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research is to train high calibre researchers who can work independently and who can contribute towards the advancement of knowledge in nursing and health sciences and the delivery of health services. We offer excellent supervision and support.


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:

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

There is excellent infrastructure of supervision and support for students both off and on campus. The Faculty supports and monitors postgraduate research education and is responsible for ensuring high quality supervision. The Faculty organises student conferences, to encourage and develop student’s skills, throughout the doctoral programme. Regular PhD student progress seminars are organised by the Institute of Nursing and Health Research at which students present their research at three months, at the end of the first year and prior to submission of the thesis. These seminars offer students and supervisors an opportunity to discuss methodological and other issues. The emphasis is on promoting a culture which values research.

The Institute of Nursing and Health Research provides a unique experience for doctoral students who wish to develop their research skills and knowledge in order to make a significant contribution to knowledge in their chosen fields. Supervision is available to support improvements in Nursing and Healthcare across the life course, from before birth to bereavement support. Postgraduate study contributes to research centres in:

  • Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies

(Head of Centre: Professor Suzanne McDonough,

  • Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

(Head of Centre: Dr Laurence Taggart,

  • Managing Chronic Illness Research Centre

(Head of Centre: Professor Vivien Coates,

  • Centre for Maternal, Foetal and Infant Research

(Head of Centre: Professor Marlene Sinclair,

  • Person-centred Practice Research Centre

(Head of Centre: Professor Assumpta Ryan,

In addition, the Institute of Nursing and Health Research is supporting the development of programmes of research in mental health nursing (as part of a University-wide development in mental health research), nursing and health sciences education and health promotion. The purpose of the centres and evolving programmes is for members to focus on their selected areas of expertise and to support each other, share ideas and resources in order to promote research in their fields, locally, nationally and internationally. MPhil and PhD supervisors are drawn mainly from these groups. We invite applicants to make contact with the relevant Centre leader and/or postgraduate tutor if they want to discuss a project for their study.

Staff research areas

Professor Owen Barr

Physical and mental health of people with learning disabilities, Attitudes towards people with learning disabilities, Community care, The role of genetics in health care.

Dr Rosario Baxter

Children’s nursing, Medical ethics and law.

Dr Pauline Black

Critical Care, ICU delirium, family involvement in care.

Dr Donna Brown

Evidence-based practice, culture and context, knowledge utilisation, person-centred practice, pain management, older people and nursing outcomes indicators.

Ms Jackie Casey

Seating & postural control interventions for children and young people; Design of equipment to meet the needs of disabled children and their carers; Virtual reality with children; DCD in children.

Professor Vivien Coates

Self management of diabetes mellitus, People’s management of chronic illness in general Research relating to nurse education.

Dr Wendy Cousins

Health Psychology, Children and Young People, Organizational communication, Mental Health, Qualitative Methodologies .

Professor Helen Dolk

Epidemiology, Womens health, Congential abnormalities.

Dr Orla Duffy

Speech and Language Therapy.

Dr Patricia Gillen

Midwifery research and women’s health.

Dr Jackie Gracey

Management of low back pain within physiotherapy; exercise and advice in the management of low back pain; cancer related fatigue and the role of exercise.

Dr Mary Hannon-Fletcher

Macromolecule damage (DNA, lipid and carbohydrate), antioxidant and micronutrient, including folate and related B-vitamins, status in health and disease.

Dr Ciara Hughes

Physiology, cell biology and complementary medicine.

Dr Sinead Keeney

Cancer Prevention, Attitudes to Cancer, Suicide and Self Harm, the Delphi Technique and Consensus Methodologies.

Professor George Kernohan

Research to support evidence-based practice, especially to improve the creation and use of knowledge across health systems, using information technologies.

Dr Daniel Kerr

Acupuncture, low back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, patient advice and education.

Dr Greg Kelly

Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing and Autism.

Dr Dianne Liddle

Non-pharmacological management of musculoskeletal disorders; exercise and health; health care incorporating the perceptions and expectations of the service user.

Dr Maria Loane

Perinatal epidemiology, congenital anomalies, medication exposures in pregnancy, data linkage.

Professor Suzanne Martin

Community care policy and practice; electronic assistive technologies; ageing in place; Supported housing options.

Professor Tanya McCance

Person-centred nursing/practice, practice development research, nursing outcome indicators, caring in nursing.

Professor Eilis McCaughan

Needs assessment in cancer care, Gender issues in cancer, Evaluation of nursing interventions.

Professor Suzanne McDonough

Physical activity and health care technologies used for musculoskeletal and neurological rehabilitation.

Dr Sonyia McFadden

Radiation dose, medical imaging, dose optimisation, protocols, DNA damage, interventional radiology.

Dr Helen McGarvey

Preoperative nursing and the care of patients undergoing surgery, Therapeutic value of nursing, Telematics applications in nursing.

Professor Sonja McIlfatrick

Palliative and end of life care; Family care giving and supporting carers, Palliative care and chronic illness.

Professor Hugh McKenna

Health Care workforce, Theory generation and testing, Mental Health, Interdisciplinary Research, Patient and Public Involvement in research.

Dr Oonagh McNally

Biology, Student learning, E-learning.

Dr Vidar Melby

Emergency care, vulnerable people.

Dr Kevin Moore

Gerontological nursing, role of support workers in health and social care, psychological assessment in the post-stroke period, person-centred nursing for mental health clients.

Dr Fidelma Moran

Respiratory diseases with special interest in bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis and the respiratory management of neuromuscular disease; non- invasive ventilation; outcome measurement including dynamic lung function and sputum.

Dr Brenda O’Neill

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise, rehabilitation after critical illness, oxygen therapy, bronchiectasis, patient education and self management.

Professor Kader Parahoo

Research/evidence dissemination and utilisation, Evaluation of interventions, Risk taking behaviours.

Dr Alison Porter-Armstrong

Community care policy and practice; caregivers; assistive technologies and pressure care mapping.

Professor Assumpta Ryan

Gerontological nursing and the care of older people, family care giving, community care for older people, impact of entry to care on older people and their families, health and social care in rural areas.

Professor Marlene Sinclair

Midwifery, Birth technology, Evidence-based practice.

Dr Paul Slater

Dr May Stinson

Seating; postural management; pressure ulcer prevention; the use of technologies including pressure mapping to prevent the development of pressure ulcers.

Dr Laurence Taggart

Mental health and people with learning disability, Assessment, treatment and management evaluation of people with learning disabilities, Service provision development, Alcohol use and people with learning disabilities.

Dr Iseult Wilson

Musculoskeletal, low back pain, shoulder pain, musicians’ playing related disorders.


Dr Donna Brown

Tel: +44 (0) 28 9036 8512


For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


Deirdre Harkin (phD student) ​

Title: How can we improve pain management for the person living with dementia as they progress through acute care settings?

I am currently in my second year as a PhD researcher studying within the Institute of Nursing and Health Research. I come from a nursing background, having worked as a senior nurse within the Trauma Orthopaedic Unit in Altnagelvin hospital for over 10 years. It was there that my passion for improving care for patients living with dementia developed. The environment provided by Ulster University for PhD researchers is a very supportive and welcoming one. Coming from a hospital setting into PhD studies can be a daunting prospect, however it has been one that I have found to be very enjoyable and rewarding, thanks to the valuable support of my supervision team, the Doctoral College and my peers. I have found my role as a PhD researcher to be a very valuable experience, facilitating me with the knowledge and tools to make real improvements for the persons living with dementia in acute care.

Aminkeng Leke

My name Aminkeng Leke and I am from Cameroon. I completed an undergraduate degree in in Medical Laboratory Sciences (2007) followed by a masters degree in Chemical Pathology (2010) both from the University of Buea-Cameroon. I am currently undertaking a PhD project entitled: “The use and safety of Anti-infectives in pregnancy, with special reference to Cameroon

Prior to starting my PhD at ulster I had numerous opportunities to be exposed to other university cultures around the world. But I must say that my experience at ulster has been life changing. I have been very impressed by the genuine concern and warm reception from my fellow students alongside the excellent organization, supervision arrangements, and spirit of collaboration that exists within the Institute of Nursing and Health research. If I had to do it all over again, it would definitely be at INHR.

Mu’ath Tanash

My name is Mu’ath Tanash, I am a 2nd year PhD student at Institute of Nursing and Health Research (INHR), Ulster University with a BSN from Jordan University of Science and Technology - Jordan, and MSN in advanced nursing from Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. Currently, I am working on research project entitled “Identifying Supportive Care Needs for Jordanian Patients Presenting with an Acute Coronary Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes: Developing and Evaluating a Novel Intervention” and I am supervised by Prof. Donna Fitzsimons and Prof. Vivien Coates. My aims are to promote developing secondary prevention strategies in Jordan by reducing gaps between individuals and Jordanian healthcare system, and hopefully to contribute to build nursing science in the area of chronic diseases management worldwide.

As any doctoral student, I wish to become a successful educator and researcher after my graduation. I am proud that I am undertaking my PhD at INHR, because it has a strong multi-disciplinary research teams that have the capabilities and expertise to push forward my project and turn my dream into reality.