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World leading - internationally excellent research impact and research environment to pursue doctoral studies


The Built Environment Research Institute is Ulster University’s principal focus for research activities relating to the sustainable development, management, regulation and conservation of the built environment. The quality of the research in the Built Environment was recognised as 100% world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of the research environment and research impact in REF2014. The main areas of research activity are carried out within distinct research groups, which also collaborate in joint research activities. The Recognised Research Groupings within the Unit of Assessment are:

  • Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT)
  • Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST)
  • Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP)
  • Hydrogen Safety Engineering and Research (HySAFER)
  • Studies Allied to Built Environment Research (SABER)

Postgraduate research opportunities are available within each research group, in the areas of Built Environment, Energy, Civil Engineering, Fire Engineering, Highway Engineering, Construction, Property, Real Estate, Planning, Housing and detailed information including project titles and supervisors is published when the PhD recruitment round opens in December.

About this course

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Based at the Jordanstown campus, the Built Environment Research Institute seeks to provide its research students with a lively and stimulating environment for their studies. Extensive experimental laboratory research facilities, established over many years of investment and complemented by high end computational facilities, are available within each of the research centres. The fire research building provides a unique series of laboratories for the study of fire safety engineering science. Research facilities for the Centre for Sustainable Technologies provide a state of the art environment for the study of energy systems and markets, renewable energies and energy technologies. There is a strong practical focus on the delivery of low carbon building solutions with technical performance and social acceptance being tested on instrumented houses.

All of the research groups have active involvement in both national and international programmes with networks involving a wide range of visiting researchers and scholars.


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 £4195

Overseas £13760

Part Time:

Home and EU £1490

Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2130

Overseas £7840

Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6390

Research facilities and groups

Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT)

The Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT) seeks to improve building practices and reduce the human and economic costs of unwanted fires. The Centre performs and supports field and analytical research on the performance of construction materials, components, systems and practices and identifies and quantifies the fundamental processes underlying the initiation, propagation and suppression of fires.

FireSERT’s research areas and services to industry include: structural fire engineering; fire dynamics; behaviour of construction components in fire; human behaviour in fire; fire simulation modelling; evacuation modelling; fire safety engineering design; risk assessment; safety audits; fire testing and product development. Research in FireSERT is focused on the areas of Fire Dynamics and Materials, Structural Fire Engineering, Fire Modelling and Human Behaviour in Fire.

Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST)

The Centre for Sustainable Technologies carries out multi-disciplinary research to create, develop, improve, demonstrate and evaluate emerging, existing and alternative sustainable renewable energy, building design, construction materials and environmental modification technologies. Extensive computational facilities and well equipped laboratories enable research to be undertaken at the forefront of the field.

CST undertakes both fundamental and applied research in the areas of: Advanced Glazing, Thermal Energy Storage, Advanced Heat Pumps, Techno-Economic Assessment of New Power Plants, Assessment of Future Energy Demands, Biomass and Bioenergy, Solar Thermal and PV Systems.

Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP)

The Centre for Research on Property and Planning focuses upon the evaluation of property market performance, investment decision-making and analysis, computer-assisted valuation models, the application of GIS, the reform and modernisation of planning policy, strategic spatial planning, land use planning and urban sustainability, the appraisal of urban regeneration initiatives, housing and land use policies, systems of land and property taxation, econometric analysis, user-requirements and facilities management.

RPP undertakes research in the following areas: Property Market Analysis, Valuation, Housing, Property Taxation, Corporate Real Estate, Emerging Markets, Property Investment, Urban Regeneration, Planning Sustainability and Development, Transportation Analysis and Modelling, Modernisation and Reform of Planning Legislation, Planning Policy and Processes, including Community Engagement, Community Planning, Civic Leadership, Marine Spatial Planning, Infrastructure Investment, Infrastructure Resilience and Urban Security.

Hydrogen Safety Engineering and Research (HySAFER)

The HySAFER Centre is an international team of researchers working in an emerging multi- disciplinary area of hydrogen safety science and engineering. The thrust in research is on computational fluid dynamics (CFD), in particular on development and validation of large eddy simulation (LES), and analytical methods. Generic research topics include but not limited to hydrogen under-expanded jets, dispersion in the open atmosphere and enclosures, spontaneous ignition of sudden hydrogen releases into air, under-ventilated jet fires and self- extinction phenomena, interaction between fires and structures, coherent deflagrations, large scale non-uniform deflagrations and transition from deflagration-to-detonation, detonations and blast waves, thermal protection of high-pressure hydrogen storage.

Pre-normative research includes practically the whole spectrum of hydrogen and fuel cell applications and infrastructure, including safety of hydrogen-powered vehicles, stationary fuel cell systems for production heat and power, refuelling stations, tunnels, garages and car parking.

Studies Allied to Built Environment Research (SABER)

SABER a new research centre within BERI formed in January 2015 was created to stimulate a research environment across a wide range of areas within the Built Environment. Areas of research include BIM, bridge scour, built environment education, concrete, engineered timber performance, environmental health, extreme weather, geopolymer, geotechnics, health and safety, hydraulics food security, nano / micro / macro-scale material characterisation, noise impacts procurement, resilience of critical infrastructure, road surface materials and tribology, sustainability in the built environment, waste water and sewerage treatment. Being a new research centre, SABER members are actively developing networking and opportunities for joint research proposals and publications with other universities around the world.

Staff research areas

Professor A Adair

Land Value Capture and Wealth Creation Strategies, Regeneration and Appraisal

Professor F Ali

Structural Fire Engineering, Numerical Modelling and Thermo-structural Response
in Fire

Mr MAnderson

Biomass, Building Physics, Building Services and Design

Professor J N Berry

Real Estate Economics, Regeneration, Property Development and Finance

Dr N Blair

Spatial planning policy, cross-border strategic planning

Dr K E Boyce

Response and Evacuation Behaviour of People in Fire

Dr S L Brennan

Safety of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies

Dr S Choi

Structural Fire Engineering

Dr P Davis

Property valuation, investment, development and asset management, urban resilience

Dr R Eadie

Construction Management and Procurement

Dr P W Griffiths

Low Carbon Buildings, Thermal Energy Storage

Dr M Haran

Real Estate Development & Investment, Regeneration, Infrastructure Investment and Finance

Dr L Hemphill

Sustainable Development & Urban Regeneration

Professor N J Hewitt

Heat Exchanger, Heat Pump and Refrigeration System Design

Dr M J Huang

Renewable Energy, Heat pump and refrigeration

Dr Y Huang

Clean Technologies with Fossil Fuels and Biomass, Process Modelling and Techno-economic Analysis

Dr T J Hyde

Advanced glazing and insulation systems, solar thermal technologies, energy efficient buildings

Dr M Keenan

Housing, Housing Management, Housing Policy, Older People, Race

Dr L C Lim

Global real estate market, valuation, property tax policy and assessment

Dr B J Magee

Materials/structures/highway engineering

Dr D Makarov

Fire and Explosion Safety, Hydrogen Safety Science and Engineering, Computational Fluid Dynamics

Dr N C McConnell

Response and Evacuation Behaviour including Psychological and Neurobehavioural Impact of People in Fire

Dr M McCord

Property Market Analysis, Investment and Econometrics

Professor S McGreal

Property Market Analysis, Regeneration and Housing

Mr S MacIntyre

Environmental Protection and Spatial Planning

Professor V Molkov

Hydrogen Safety Science and Engineering, Fire and Explosion Safety

Dr J Mondol

Solar Energy, Energy Efficient Buildings

Dr M E Murphy

Construction Innovation Management

Professor A Nadjai

Structural Fire Engineering, Numerical Modelling and Thermo-structural Response
in Fire

Dr P Millar

Civil Engineering: Land Surveying and GIS

Dr P Pimenidou

Catalysis, Gasification, High Temperature CO2 Capture, Emissions’ Control

Mr G Rafferty

Spatial Planning, Governance and Community Engagement

Dr H Ritchie

Spatial Planning and Energy Policy

Dr M Smyth

Renewable Energy Systems, Building Services

Dr B Solan

Geotechnical failure

Dr W D H Woodward

Highway Engineering

Dr A Zacharopoulos

Renewable energy, Building integrated solar thermal/PV systems, Energy efficient buildings

Dr J Zhang

Fire Dynamics and Material Flammability


Professor Neil Hewitt

T: +44 2890368566


For me, completing a PhD at Ulster University was transformative. A PhD trains you to think differently. It acted as a springboard to my career path, greatly developing both my analytical and personal skills. The quality and dedication of my supervision remains unrivalled. My experience opened the door to amazing opportunities and a wide network of global real estate professionals, many of whom I now count as friends. Almost twenty years on I continue to benefit and still consider the University my second home.

Dr Brenna O’Roarty

Founder, Executive Director RHL Strategic Solutions

Graduated 1996

Looking back over the course of my career, I can categorically state that my PhD from Ulster has opened many doors in terms of career/professional development and commercial success through winning consulting commissions. The skills I gained were specific (in my subject area), but often when I reflect, it is the general skills that have added most value to my career over time – for example, the ability to see the bigger economic picture, the ability to analyse and summarise complex sets of data, the ability to write reports and present in a succinct manner and the ability to influence stakeholders in projects. For these reasons I highly recommend a PhD as a foundation for career success.

Dr Connel Bottom MRICS FRSA

Partner, Bernard Williams Associates

PhD Graduate 1997

“As a late-in-life doctoral candidate - I found the Ulster University Research PhD program perfect. The support and guidance from my faculty advisors were terrific, and I was able to plumb my topic to a rich level of analysis under their tutelage. Moreover, I’ve been pleased to see the dissertation topic, “24-hour cities and commercial real estate investment performance,” picked up as a fresh area of follow-on research in academic journals and in the industry at large.”

Hugh F. Kelly, PhD, CRE

Clinical Professor of Real Estate, New York University and 2014 Chair, The Counselors of Real Estate

Ulster graduation - 2011.