Offering the opportunity to conduct research in a range of areas with associated training in contemporary research methods


The Psychology Research Institute offers institute supervision of research leading to a PhD degree in five main areas of psychology on either a full-time (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis. Research students will work within one of these areas and quickly become part of an exciting and productive research group that addresses important theoretical and translational research questions. There will be opportunities to engage with fellow students, staff and researchers in formal research seminars and informal discussions. We also expect our research students to develop their research skills and academic networks by collaborating with researchers in other UK and international universities and research centres. Research students on our programme are supported by a range of general and specific training programmes through the Researcher Development Programme to help develop research skills and employment prospects. There are currently over 60 research students being supervised by staff in the Psychology Research Institute.

The research areas are

  • Peace, Conflict and Equality
  • Health, Education and Wellbeing
  • Behavioural Neuroscience and Behaviour Analysis
  • Population Health Sciences and Mental Health Services
  • Psychotraumatology, Mental Health and Suicidal Behaviour

About this course

In this section


Postgraduate research is located within the Psychology Research Institute. The Institute aims to be a leading centre for applied psychological research drawing upon our cutting edge expertise in statistical methodology and theoretical research. Researchers are committed to multi-disciplinary approaches to help address complex health and social issues and have developed extensive collaborative partnerships with international centres of excellence to produce findings, which have real benefits for society.


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.

In this section

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

In this section

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

The School of Psychology and the Psychology Research Institute are well resourced to support students using a range of experimental and non-experimental research methods. The Institute also hosts the Research and Statistics Summer School, which runs annually and provides training in a range of contemporary research methods and statistics. In addition, the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing is located in Psychology. The centre was established in 2011 with the aim of increasing our understanding of mental health through research conducted in Northern Ireland. It aims to improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems and their carers through excellent research evidence that informs and influences policy and practice.

Peace, Conflict and Equality

Multi-disciplinary research under this theme focuses on intergroup conflict and psychological approaches to understanding and mediating the effects of intergroup violence and attitudes, with an internationally-recognised reputation for excellence. This research group was highlighted by the 2014 REF panel as having research which is both world leading and having societal impact.

RRG Leader: Professor Maurice Stringer

Health, Education and Wellbeing

Health, education and well-being is an expanding area, partly in response to the needs of a changing population who are at risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and obesity. Research conducted under this theme aims to support and engage in innovative, multidisciplinary, transformational and international research within the area of health psychology, education and well-being. Research staff working in this area undertake independent, scientific assessments of health-related interventions, such as: Diabetes care programmes; Alcohol treatment programmes; Domestic Violence Programmes; NSPCC counselling in schools programmes; nutrition and physical activity programmes for children and older adults.

RRG Leader Dr Liz Simpson

Behavioural Neuroscience and Behavioural Analysis

Research into Alzheimer’s disease and behavioural extinction; stimulus equivalence and eye tracking; applied behaviour analysis work on education of children with autism.

RRG Leader Professor Julian Leslie

Population Health Sciences and Mental Health Services

There are two main strands to this interdisciplinary research theme: Administrative and secondary data research and routinely collected administrative data are a valuable source of information for research and policy evaluation. These data are relatively inexpensive to exploit, compared to the costs of establishing specially commissioned surveys. The ADRC-NI is a partnership between Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), Ulster University and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Staff working in this area have substantial expertise in quantitative methods and statistical modelling, resulting in over 400 peer-reviewed publications and research council funding for research projects and statistical training.
The Bamford Centre aims to use expertise gained through the development of research that is relevant to the needs and priorities of patients, services, and government. Research conducted by the Bamford Centre aims to: (1) understand the determinants of health and the patterning of health service use; and (2) improve health services and the quality of life for people with mental health problems.

RRG Leader Professor Gerry Leavey

Psychotraumatology, Mental Health and Suicidal Behaviour

A key focus of this research theme relates to the area of Psychotraumatology, which refers to the study of processes and factors that lie antecedent to, are associated with, and are subsequent to psychological traumatization. The research conducted under this theme aims to add to the knowledge base in this field through studies that address biopsychosocial factors related to risk, resilience, prevention, and treatment. There is a strong emphasis on conducting research that leads to impact and policy level change in Northern Ireland. Research conducted under this theme therefore aims to influence the way in which people that have experienced or are currently experiencing trauma, mental health issues, and / or suicidal ideation & behaviour are identified, supported, and treated.

RRG Leader Professor Cherie Armour

Staff research areas

Professor Gary Adamson

Statistical modelling; Psychological Epidemiology; Mental Health and Addictions; Early Life Events and Mental Health.

Professor Cherie Armour

Mental Health; Mental Health promotion programmes; Accesses to supports and services for Mental Health; Veteran health and wellbeing; Secondary traumatisation; Technological solutions / interventions for Mental Health; Male interpersonal violence; The psychological impact of childhood sexual assault; The psychological impact of intimate partner violence; Police and services response to domestic violence; Help-seeking & stigma associated with Mental Health; Latent variable modelling; The nosology of PTSD in the DSM-5 & ICD-11.

Dr Robert Bones

Precision teaching and sport; Precision teaching and learning; Stimulus equivalence and transfer of function; Evolutionary psychology.

Professor Brendan Bunting

Statistical modelling; psychology and health.

Dr Noel Brick

Sport and exercise psychology. Effects of attentional focus and cognitive strategies on endurance performance and exercise adherence. Effects of exercise on cognitive function.

Dr Claire Campbell

Intergroup relations, social identity theory and social cognition.

Dr Tony Cassidy

Health Psychology: Child and Family Psychology: Psychosocial aspects of stress, coping and health: Psychosocial aspects of child and family health. Cancer, chronic illness, physical activity, rehabilitation, complementary therapy, palliative care.

Dr Janine Cooper

Pharmacoepidemiology, mental health.

Dr Dagmar Corry

Positive mental health across the lifespan; young people's mental health; living well with dementia; spirituality and religion in mental health; coping and resilience through creativity and spirituality; qualitative research, and mixed methods research.

Dr Emma Curran

Epidemiology; Administrative data; Child and adolescent mental health.

Dr Paul DeCock

Early (perinatal) predictors of child psychological development as well as in the potential for public health interventions to promote psychological wellbeing. Health services research, with a focus on perinatal health care.

Dr Edel Ennis

Seasonal Affective Disorder; Individual difference, with particular emphasis on personality, emotional intelligence and attachment and their relevance to understanding various behaviours, e.g. deception, work burnout and engagement.

Dr Finola Ferry

Mental health epidemiology; mental health economics; statistical and econometric modelling using administrative data.

Dr Andrea Furey

Social identity theory; prejudice; segregation; cross-community contact.

Dr Stephen Gallagher

Applied Behaviour Analysis in addressing the needs of those individuals with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and their carers. Behavioural Gerontology. The use of eye tracking equipment as a method of assessing and changing gaze behaviour (with reference to autism, obesity, behavioural safety). Stimulus Equivalence.

Professor Melanie Giles

Attitudes and attitude change. The application of social cognition models to Health Psychology. Child and family health; student engagement, employability and peer mentoring.

Dr Colin Gorman

Forensic mental health, assessment and treatment of victims and perpetrators of violent and sexual offences. Emotional empathy and emotional regulation.

Dr James Houston

Mental health, cannabis and psychosis.

Dr Mickey Keenan

Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, Applied Behaviour Analysis, Stimulus Equivalence and Creativity, Autism, Parent Training.

Dr Eun-Mee Kim

Behavioural neuroscience, models of psychological disorders.

Dr Niamh Kennedy

Research into the motor, cognitive and psychological aspects of recovery of individuals with stroke and brain injury. I have investigated this using a range of techniques including neuroscience, neurophysiology and experimental psychology, to add to our understanding of recovery and the healthy brain.

Dr Karen Kirby

Child and Adolescent Mental Health: to include mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention (addressing self-harm, anxiety, depression, and prevention of cyberbullying). Assessing the utility and effectiveness of brief CBT for a range of mental health conditions. Health Psychology in particular links between mental health and health /lifestyle behaviours which impact control of existing chronic conditions and the prevention of others ( such as Type 2 Diabetes in particular).

Professor Gerry Leavey

Access to and acceptability of mental health services. Improving the quality of life for people with mental health problems. Improving the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers; Access to, and acceptability of, health and social care provision. Understanding the needs of family caregivers and improving support, health inequalities and health service outcomes; Young people and help-seeking for mental health and emotional problems; Medical anthropology and sociology: health beliefs, religion and spirituality related to mental health.

Professor Julian Leslie

Behavioural neuroscience, experimental analysis of behaviour, applied behaviour analysis, stimulus equivalence.

Dr John Mallett

Multivariate statistics, measurement models, missing data analysis, health psychology in particular, healthy ageing, positive psychology and mental health.

Dr Donal McAteer

Psychological therapy evaluation; therapy process, the therapeutic relationship, and therapist factors’ influence on therapy outcome; mental health; well-being in isolated community populations and their access to mental health services; qualitative methods.

Dr Orla McBride

Addiction, the development of problematic alcohol use, latent variable modelling.

Dr Claire McDowell

Evidence based education, Autism, Childhood feeding disorders.

Dr Adele McKinney

Cognitive functions specifically memory and attention and the impact of perceived healthy behaviours.

Dr Marian McLaughlin

Psychosocial aspects of child and family health, health psychology, behaviour change, sexual health, oral health and e-cigarette use.

Dr Frances McLernon

Forgiveness, intergroup conflict, group processes.

Dr Jamie Murphy

Dimensional and continuous representations of psychosis; psycho-social etiology of psychosis; trauma-psychosis mechanisms of association; lay/professional attitudes towards ‘severe mental illness’.

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Suicidal behaviour. Self-harm. Mental health in Northern Ireland. Mental health in college students. Crisis line caller behaviour. Mental health services research. Qualitative and quantitative methods.

Professor Gillian Robinson

Research methodology; social attitudes and good relations; peace monitoring; role of digital archives in peacebuilding.

Dr Michael Rosato

Mental health and wellbeing – using both specific dedicated datasets, and the more generically defined Longitudinal Studies; health outcomes of ethnic minority populations (in E&W and in the wider European setting); chronic disease epidemiology and health inequalities.

Professor Mark Shevlin

Latent variable modelling, psychosis, PTSD and trauma.

Dr Gillian Shorter

Addiction, Alcohol Brief Interventions, Addictive behaviour change, Randomised Trial Design, Systematic Reviews, Consensus Methods, Community Mental Health, Public Mental Health, Polydrug use, Gambling.

Dr Victoria Simms

Developmental psychology; mathematical thinking and reasoning in childhood, cognition, working memory, executive functions. Learning in pre-school and primary school aged children. Long-term impact of premature birth on cognitive and educational outcomes. Developmental disorders.

Dr Liz Simpson

Psychological well-being and health during pregnancy, menopause, and infertility; cognition and ageing and the underlying event related potentials (EEG); Health needs of carers with dementia; predictors of early diagnosis; designing more appropriate dementia friendly environments; dietary patterns, health and well-being, predictors of supplement use; psychoneuroimmunology and the role of zinc in cognition and well-being; promotion and maintenance for health and well-being across the lifespan; PA guidelines and their meaning.

Professor Maurice Stringer

Intergroup conflict, group processes, student feedback, mental health, health psychology.

Dr Emma Walker

The wellbeing of those who are working or have worked in uniformed occupations.

Dr Bethany Bradley-Waterhouse

Research on the experiences of marginalised groups in accessing services.


Dr Gillian Shorter, Postgraduate Tutor for Psychology


Dr Victoria Simms, Research Director

T: +44 (0)28 7012 4395

Email: v.simms@ulster.ac.uk

For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


Completing my PhD at the School of Psychology was a really enjoyable experience and provided me with the necessary foundations to begin my academic career. The supervision I received during my PhD exceeded my expectations with endless support and guidance throughout the entire process. The staff are internationally recognised academics in their respective areas and place a strong emphasis on student career development by holding a range of networking events, training seminars and providing opportunities for students to attend national and international conferences. Whilst undertaking my PhD I had the opportunity to visit and participate in research projects with an international university and develop collaborative links with other institutions in my field at an early stage of my research career which was an amazing experience!

There is an excellent Researcher Development Programme that offers multiple training seminars designed to develop interpersonal and communication skills necessary for a career in academia. Fortnightly postgraduate research seminars are held that enable students to develop their skills in presenting their research in a supportive environment and provides a platform to receive informative peer feedback. There are also regular qualitative and quantitative workshops held that facilitate your research skills and provide specialised training in your chosen research methodology. The School of Psychology is a lively and highly motivating environment of research activity with wide range of facilities that enable students to carryout high quality research with a strong support base from the faculty, academic and support staff and students.”

Dr Siobhan Murphy, Research Fellow

“There are many reasons why I would recommend Ulster University for postgraduate study. The School of Psychology at Ulster combines worldleading, innovative research with a closeknit, community atmosphere. The academic supervision I have received has truly been first class. I enjoy an excellent working relationship with both of my primary supervisors. They are always on hand to offer advice, support and guidance. They have also given me numerous opportunities to get involved with ongoing research projects, and co-author a number of peer reviewed publications outside the scope of my doctoral thesis. Undertaking a PhD is about more than simply writing a thesis, it is a platform to develop a wide range of skills that are desirable for a career in academia and beyond. Ulster University has provided me with the facilities and resources to develop these skills. For example, since beginning my PhD I have gained teaching experience in seminars/tutorials, attended and presented research at various conferences, and travelled abroad to attend research methodology courses. The general facilities and support staff have also helped me greatly in the day-to-day aspects of conducting a PhD. Overall, I believe the School of Psychology at Ulster is a fantastic place to begin a career in academia.”

Eoin McElroy, PhD student

I started studying for my PhD in Psychology at Ulster University in September 2010 and was awarded my PhD in January 2014. The experience of studying at PhD level at Ulster was a highly positive experience and one I will take with me for the rest of my life. Doing a PhD was transformative in many ways for me. I was encouraged to present at conferences and publish papers, and was given opportunities to teach and contribute to other research projects. I also had access to great facilities including on-going specialist training events, libraries, high quality IT services, and as my subject was in a specialist area, the School of Psychology also arranged access to workshops and brought in experts from other Universities.

The process of doing a PhD taught me many vital skills for my future career as a Research Fellow, including managing an on-going project, handling data, communicating orally and in writing to a variety of audiences and managing my time and prioritising tasks. As a result, the skills attained have provided me with the necessary foundations to build a successful career in academia and have been fundamental for both my professional and career development. Last, but, by no means least, the supervision I received at Ulster was outstanding and I am indebted to my supervisors for their continued support, motivational discussions, enthusiastic advice and professional guidance over the three years of studying and since I have completed. The PhD journey was a challenging and often difficult experience, but it was made easier by the excellent support and encouragement I received from my supervisors and Ulster University.

Dr Tara O’Neill, Research Fellow