Offering the opportunity to conduct research in a range of areas with associated training in contemporary research methods
The Psychology Research Institute offers supervision of research leading to a PhD degree in four 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 and Wellbeing
- Behavioural Neuroscience;
- Psychological Epidemiology and Mental Health
About this course
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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
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).
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
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. The centre adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to mental health research and is able to draw on a considerable range of skills and expertise in health services research and population health sciences.
Staff research areas
Professor Gary Adamson
Statistical modelling; Psychological Epidemiology; Mental Health and Addictions; Early Life Events and Mental Health.
Dr Cherie Armour
Childhood sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, nosology of PTSD in the DSM-5.
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
Cognitive sport psychology, and attentional focus and cognitive control during endurance activity.
Dr Claire Campbell
Intergroup relations 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.
Dr Kieran Coyle
Attention and memory; sleep disturbance; stress and human performance; alcohol effects on memory and psychomotor performance.
Professor Gerry Cunningham
Clinical Psychology and systemic psychotherapy.
Dr Lynn Dunwoody
Cancer, chronic illness, physical activity, rehabilitation, complementary therapy, palliative 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
Dr Andrea Furey
Social identity theory; prejudice; segregation; cross-community contact.
Dr Stephen Gallagher
Professor Melanie Giles
Attitudes and attitude change. The application of social cognition models to Health Psychology. Child and family health. tudent engagement, employability and peer mentoring.
Dr Colin Gorman
Forensic mental health, assessment and treatment of individuals who have committed violent and sexual offences.
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 Karen Kirby
Psychology and Health, Psychosocial Predictors and Prevention of Chronic Disease, in particular Type 2 Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease. Public Health Research. Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Professor Gerry Leavey
Access to and acceptability of mental health services.
Professor Julian Leslie
Behavioural neuroscience, experimental analysis of behaviour, applied behaviour analysis, stimulus equivalence.
Professor Christine Liddell
Psychology among ethnic minorities, psychology and culture, psychology and the environment, landscape psychology.
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
Effects of alcohol consumption on cognition, Neuropsych assessments, Mental health.
Dr Marian McLaughlin
Attitudes and Attitude Change, Sexual Health, Oral health, Palliative Care in Parkinson’s Disease and Child and Family Health and Well-being.
Dr Frances McLernon
Forgiveness, intergroup conflict, group processes.
Dr Robert Millar
Career development and choice behaviours, careers guidance practice, adolescent concerns and worries, locus of control in the career context.
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’.
Dr Samuel Murphy
Mental Health in Northern Ireland, Ergonomics, Psychological and physical risk factors for school children’s neck, upper back and low back pain; Musculoskeletal disorders in Agriculture.
Professor Siobhan O’Neill
Health Psychology; psychosocial aspects of cancer; older people; informal care; qualitative and qualitative methods and behavioural epidemiology.
Professor Gillian Robinson
Research methodology; social attitudes; policy development and implementation in a comparative context; gender and security; and cross-community marriage.
Dr David Shaw
Behavioural neuroscience, experimental analysis of behaviour, behavioural pharmacology, anxiety and olfaction.
Professor Mark Shevlin
Latent variable modelling, psychosis, PTSD and trauma.
Dr Victoria Simms
The development of mathematical thinking and reasoning, specifically in young children.
Dr Liz Simpson
Health psychology; Women’s health issues; Cognition memory, perception and the underlying Event related potentials (EEG); Nutrition; Psychoneuroimmunology.
Professor Maurice Stringer
Intergroup conflict, group processes, psychology
“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 world-leading, innovative research with a close-knit, 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