The longest-established academic Communication department in the UK, with a vibrant research tradition that produces internationally excellent work.
The Communication research thrust takes place across three main sub-areas: Interpersonal Communication, Health Communication and Counselling, and Organisational Communication.
Research supervision is available in all areas of communication, including interpersonal communication, social interaction, health communication, counselling, organisational communication, digital communication, advertising, public relations.
About this course
In this section
Interpersonal Communication research focuses on research in workplace communication, uncertainty management, and developing skilled communication in a range of contexts. In addition it studies groups and relational communication, which focuses on the areas of intercommunity communication, communication post-terror attacks, communities of practice, and forgiveness and reconciliation.
Health Communication and Counselling
Current health communication themes include: communication technologies within healthcare, obesity communication, cancer communication, social media in health communication, health PR and promotion, and well-being within the workplace. Current counselling themes are counselling services, post-traumatic growth and secondary trauma.
Organisational Communication research spans a wide range of areas, including: auditing internal and external communications; the role of communication in facilitating change; the use of the internet as a promotional tool; public relations in Ireland; the adoption and implementation of PR evaluation systems; the power of advertisement ‘likeability’ in predicting campaign success; and, the use of new media technologies in political communication.
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.
Further details about each programme area can be found at the following links:
Project Area 1:
Key Issues in Interpersonal Communication and Social Interaction
Project Area 2:
Key Issues in Health Communication and Counselling
Project Area 3:
Key issues in Organisational Communication, Advertising or Public Relations
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.
In this section
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).
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/applyonlineHow to apply
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 £4121
Home and EU £1455
Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2070
Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6225
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
“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