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Traditionally, the Politics and International Studies research cluster has maintained a strong focus on research in Irish politics and, while that continues, the research portfolio has developed to explore larger questions of identity, ethnic conflict and conflict transformation. Related areas where members of staff are active researchers and where supervision is available are the politics of the European Union, gender politics, community relations, political parties, peace processes and leadership, memory studies, conservative thought and the politics of constitutional change in the United Kingdom with special reference to England and Englishness.

About this course

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The Politics and International Studies research group is located within the Institute for Research in Social Science which is one of the University’s Research Institutes created to concentrate on the highest quality research. The Institute supports a vibrant research environment through a range of activities. The research environment within the Institute is interdisciplinary and orientated toward producing research that has real life impact. It places a premium on the inclusion and development of research student.


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).


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:

How 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)

Full Time:

Home and EU £4121

Overseas £13400

Part Time:

Home and EU £1455

Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2070

Overseas £7635

Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6225

Research facilities and groups

The Faculty Research Graduate School provides dedicated support to students throughout the research period including research training and development opportunities. Office space and computer rooms are available to all PhD students. A team of IT technicians provide further support. All students have access to a range of excellent library resources including databases and software. There are excellent collections of primary and secondary materials on Irish politics, the politics of Northern Ireland and British politics, including newspapers, pamphlets and political ephemera. Research areas such as political theory, policy-making, European politics, gender studies, conflict transformation are all well-resourced. Students may also gain access to the resources of INCORE - International Conflict Research. INCORE was founded through an agreement between the United Nations University and Ulster University to establish a research and training centre devoted to further understanding of ethnic conflicts and their transformation.

In collaboration with other research units and the Research Graduate School, we offer additional academic support to enhance the student experience including:

  • A methodological master-class series led by senior researchers
  • A seminar series
  • Postgraduate writing workshops
  • Biannual research student away days
  • Financial support to attend relevant national and international conferences, seminars and workshops
  • Processes to encourage joint publications between students and staff

Staff research areas

Dr Fidelma Ashe

Fidelma is an expert in gender studies and has published widely in this area. She has a strong interest in gender and conflict transformation and has collaborated with researchers from a range of American, Canadian and Australian universities to produce critical and comparative research in this area. She is also an expert on studies of masculinities and her book, The New Politics of Masculinity was published by Routledge (2007). Her other research interests include gender and ethno-nationalist conflict; feminist theory; gender, sexuality and transformations from ethnic conflict; and gender and violence.

Dr Máire Braniff

Máire Braniff lecturers in Sociology at Ulster University, Northern Ireland and her research expertise lies at the nexus of peace, justice and truth-recovery. In her work she explores competing and conflicting narratives, relationships of power and victimhood in a comparative and conceptual way. Her areas of expertise include conflict resolution, legacies of violent conflict, memory and commemoration, victimhood and peace agreements in the following areas: Balkans, Northern Ireland, South Caucasus and South East Asia. She has published articles on these fields in leading journals. Her monograph was published by IB Tauris in 2011 “Integrating the Balkans: from Conflict to EU Expansion”. Máire has two co- authored books: “Inside the Democratic Unionist party: from Protest to Power” (OUP) with Tonge et al and “Conflict as Commemoration” with McDowell (Palgrave). She is an Academic Friend of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO). Her research activities on anniversaries and historical wrongs, connecting commemorative communities and children of political violence have all received funding from the AHRC’s Care for the Future theme. She has been awarded a number of additional research grants to support research across a range of areas.

Dr Jonny Byrne

Jonny Byrne has conducted research in the areas of ethnic conflict and conflict transformation. He is currently working on a research project mapping public policy around Northern Ireland’s ‘peace walls’ and has conducted research into policing, political protest and ethnic politics. He has received significant amounts of external funding to support these areas of critical research and has produced a number of academic publications.

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan is the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Impact. Her primary research interests lie in the areas of political elites, peace processes, public policy and the politics of divided societies. Recently published books include Gormley-Heenan, C. & Lightfoot, S. eds. (2012) Teaching Politics and International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; Aughey, A. & Gormley-Heenan, C. (eds). (2011). The Anglo-Irish Agreement: Rethinking Its Legacy. Manchester: MUP; and Gormley-Heenan, C. (2007) Political Leadership and the Northern Ireland Peace Process: Role, Capacity and Effect published by Palgrave Macmillan. She is currently working on a research project mapping public policy around Northern Ireland’s ‘peace walls’. She has been awarded a number of prestigious research grants.

Ms Grainne Kelly

Grainne Kelly’s teaching and research interests are in the inter-disciplinary field of peace and conflict studies. She has a particular interest in reconciliation theory and practice, both in Northern Ireland and internationally, and has published widely in this area, including: Progressing Reconciliation and Good Relations in Post-Agreement Northern Ireland (2012) and Reconciliation: rhetoric or relevant (with B.Hamber), (2005). Her research interests include: reconciliation as an aspect of peacebuilding; reconciliation theory and practice; intergroup relations following violent conflict; liberal peacebuilding; storytelling and oral history as dealing with the past mechanisms; the role of philanthropy in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes; analysis and evaluation of peacebuilding practice; theories of change in peacebuilding; Northern Ireland politics.

Dr Duncan Morrow

Duncan Morrow lectures in Politics and has wide- ranging expertise in the area of community relations. In 2002, he was appointed as Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council where he championed the concept of a shared future and developed the Council’s role in research and active learning, in policy development and work on key issues such as interfaces, parading and regeneration and in work with victims and survivors of conflict. Over 9 years the Council became the leading funding agency for inter-community work taking a lead role in both the IFI Community Bridges Programme and the EU PEACE fund. Since his return to the University in 2011, he has also been appointed as Chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Tackling Sectarianism, Scottish Government, 2012-13. He has been awarded a number of research grants to support his research.

Dr Cillian McGrattan

Cillian McGrattan is the author of Northern Ireland, 1968-2008: The Politics of Entrenchment (Palgrave Macmillan 2010); and The Northern Ireland Conflict (Oneworld, 2010) (with Aaron Edwards). His second monograph was published in October 2012, Memory, Politics and Identity: Haunted by History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); and an edited collection appeared in December 2012, Everyday Life after the Irish Conflict: The Impact of Devolution and North- South Cooperation (Manchester University Press, 2012) (co-edited with Elizabeth Meehan), together with numerous articles and book chapters. He is currently writing a book on the politics of trauma (Routledge, forthcoming). His research interests include ethnic conflict; nationalism; peace building and conflict resolution; Irish politics; the politics of trauma; political responsibility; democratization processes.


Contact: Dr Kristian Lasslett

Tel: +44 (0)28 903 66248



I completed my PhD in Politics at Ulster between 2011 and 2015. Throughout the course of the PhD I was always impressed by the collegial atmosphere of the department and the level of support given to doctoral students both by supervisors and the Research Graduate School. I developed both my skills as a researcher and writer and was able to present my research at a number of academic conferences including an international conference in New Zealand. I feel much more confident in my own research and teaching abilities, and I would recommend Ulster University to any student at any level of study.

Claire Pierson