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An in-depth overview of the vocational and theoretical perspectives of sports development and coaching.


Study Sports Development and Coaching at Ulster University in the United Kingdom.

The course is rooted in an appreciation of the fact that it is almost impossible to understand society without first understanding the place of sport. As our Chancellor, James Nesbitt, noted at a recent honorary degree ceremony for Sir Alex Ferguson, "sport matters". For example, sport plays a central role in identity construction and it is a socially constructed phenomenon that is embedded in the very fabric of cultures. It is also increasingly associated with issues like poverty, labor migration, crime, development, gender and social inequalities as well as being seen increasingly as a tool to address these.

Our cumulative years of experiences of many years of research has shown us that there is a need to think far less emotionally, and far more clearly, thoughtfully and analytically about sport. This is necessary if we are to understand why sport, sports development and sports coaching are the way they are, and what they could, or even should be, into the future.

Accordingly, the programme offers students a dual opportunity: one, to develop and apply social scientific ideas, concepts and knowledge to sports development and coaching, and; two, to develop professional practices in these areas that are informed by a more thoughtful and critical understanding of sport, leisure and physical activity.

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About this course

In this section


The programme is the only one of its kind on the island of Ireland that offers students the opportunity to develop social scientific ideas, concepts and knowledge and apply these to sports development and coaching. It is also unique in its informing of related professional practices in sport with critical, analytical and social scientific thinking.

The programme is delivered by an interdisciplinary team with extensive practice-based experience in sports development and coaching, and with considerable research expertise in the social sciences of sport. Research-informed and student-centred teaching practices at the heart of the programme. For this reason, the programme team are passionate about sport but equally dispassionate sports researchers. This passion is brought to bear upon and informs the learning outcomes of the programme directly.

The programme is designed to:

• enable students to acquire and apply a body of social scientific theoretical and empirical knowledge to sports development and coaching;
• develop in students the ability to understand the ways in which professional practice in sports development and/or sports coaching can be informed by a social scientific understanding of sport;
• provide opportunities for students to enhance their abilities in a range of transferable skills required in the fields of sports development and coaching;
• produce graduates who have gained experience of an in-depth, independent investigation of current issues in sports development and/or coaching using appropriate research methodology, and;
• produce graduates who can demonstrate increased capacity for understanding and evaluating the concepts, complexities and current issues in sports development and coaching.


This programme operates on a full-time basis.

The programme lasts for one calendar year incorporating two taught semesters (Sep-Dec and Feb-April) and a research semester (May-Sep). 60 credits are completed per semester (equivalent to 60 effort hours including class contact time).

Classes are typically held on Thursday (2.15-5.15pm and 5.45-7.45pm) and Friday (9.15am-11.15pm).

In accordance with the University's policy, attendance is compulsory at all classes in semesters one and two. Each semester a number of classes are also delivered online via blended learning, and supplemented by self-directed study.

Start dates

  • September 2016
How to apply


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

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Year one

Understanding Sport

Year: 1

This module addresses in an in-depth, critical manner, the value of social scientific understandings of sport to issues and professional practice in sports development and coaching.

Issues in Sports Development and Coaching

Year: 1

This module will aim to develop the student?s ability to critically analyse sports development and coaching principles and practices and assess how strategy, policy and key issues have shaped both professions.

Research in Sports Development and Coaching

Year: 1

This module provides students with the necessary skills to understand research methods, conduct a small independent research project and appreciate the relevance of robust research for good practice in professional practice in sports development and coaching.

Professional Practice in Sports Development and Coaching

Year: 1

The ability to successfully devise sports coaching or development programmes is based on a myriad of factors which will be explored in this module. This module will aim to develop student's ability to critically analyse current sports development and coaching principles and practices and assess how programmes can be successfully planned, implemented and evaluated.

Policy Analysis for Sport

Year: 1

This module is designed to examine the political context for the development of public policy which concerns the sport industry. Students will be made aware of public policy rationales and procedures. An understanding of the stakeholder approach to sport governance and the importance of a rigorous evidence base to aide policy formulation will be relevant outcomes for practising sport development officers and coaches.

Research Project in Sports Development and Coaching

Year: 1

This module provides students with the opportunity to conduct an independent research project in an area of their choosing within the cognitive field of sports development and/or coaching. They will present their findings and engage in critical assessment of their work by way of a written research project of between 16 000 and 20 000 words in total.

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

Minimum of a 2nd Class, Lower Distinction (2:2) at undergraduate degree level or equivalent in a relevant academic discipline. Consideration will be given to applicatants who do not meet this but who can evidence appropriate prior learning (APL) or appropriate Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Teaching and learning assessment

Classes are taught via lectures, seminars, tutorials and online delivery. Assessment is by means of assignments, group tasks and presentations.

Exemptions and transferability


Careers & opportunities

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Career options

The specialist knowledge and transferable skills provided on this programme have enhanced opportunities for obtaining employment in the sports development, sports coaching and related sectors.

Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) statistics provided by Ulster University's Careers Service show that a significant cohort of those students graduating from Ulster (with sports related undergraduate awards) go on to full-time employment in the broad field of sport and leisure. This Masters programme at the School of Sport continues this excellent track record of producing multi-skilled graduates who are attractive to a range of employers.

Recent monitoring of M-level statistics shows that graduates of this programme have EITHER obtained entry into fulltime employment OR attained career progression/transition in areas as occupationally varied as:

  • Leisure industry
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Community Sport
  • National sports councils
  • Sports coaching, within and outside national governing bodies of sport on the island and in the UK
  • Sports partnerships on the island, and
  • Design, management and delivery of Higher Education sport.

There are also opportunities for further research based study (MPhil/DPhil) for students graduating from this programme. These are within the Centre for Sport in Society, housed in the Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute.

For further information on this Centre and on doctoral research opportunities, please consult

Work placement / study abroad

Not applicable.


Applications can be made directly to the University using the Direct Entry form available online. Contact Course Director, Shane McCullough ( ), for details.

How to apply

Start dates

  • September 2016

Fees and funding

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Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Tuition fees shown are for last years entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing and may be subject to an annual increase. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study. Read our Tuition Fees Payment Policy

Northern Ireland & EU:

Scholarships, awards and prizes

The Oonagh Pimm prize is awarded to the top performing student each year.

Additional mandatory costs

Not applicable

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel and normal living are a part of university life. 

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them in the online prospectus. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course. 

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees. 

Please contact the course team for more information.


Course Director: Shane McCullough

T: +44 (0) 28 9036 8538


Faculty Office: Jennie Smyth

T: +44 (0) 28 9036 6595