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Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts are research-intensive subjects at Ulster, with staff working in a wide range of areas within and across disciplines. In Ref 2014, nearly 60% of research outputs and 100% of the impact of our work on policy and creative practice was rated 4* (world- leading) and 3* (internationally excellent). The impact of our research was judged to be 90% 4*, one of only a handful of Units of Assessment to achieve this score across the whole Higher Education sector.

The University welcomes applicants interested in researching all areas of music composition, performance and music theatre.

About this course

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The department is firmly committed to creative practice as an integral part of its research activity: recently submitted and ongoing doctoral studies include work on the music of Rachmaninov; on contemporary jazz piano and guitar performance and on drum kit and percussion techniques in musical theatre; on recent developments in ‘straight ahead’ jazz drumming, creative applications of technology in solo electric guitar performance, technology interfaces for disabled musicians, contemporary works for prepared piano, and Highland piping traditions; on rhythm perception in language-impaired children, music in film, the history of sound art, the history of show bands, issues of cultural heritage in opera; and analyses of tuning in traditional Irish fiddle music and of microtonality in jazz.


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

The physical resources of the Centre reflect the research interests of Music staff, focusing especially on composition, performance, and music theatre:

  • a media lab featuring 25 Apple iMac workstations supporting leading-edge music composition, audio processing and non-linear video editing;
  • software applications including Logic Pro, Reason, Ableton Live, Max, Sibelius and Final Cut Studio;
  • a traditional recording studio combining both analogue and digital, based around a Sony DMX R100 recording console, Genelec monitoring, Quad Core Apple Mac Pro, Logic Pro and a selection of processing tools from TC Electronic, Focusrite, TL Audio and Drawmer (the studio has full access to the School’s microphone complement which includes models from DPA, Neumann, AKG, Soundfield, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and Shure);
  • a second studio with an intermedia suite based around a Genelec 5.1 surround sound system, Quad Core Apple Mac Pro, Tascam FW1884 and a selection of software applications including Waves Gold and Maya;
  • a third studio with a pre-production suite based around Digidesign Pro Tools, Genelec monitoring and an Apple G5, supporting in addition Final Cut Pro;
  • a selection of professional mobile digital recording devices including digital still cameras, HD video cameras, portable monitoring and a range of audio recording equipment suitable for field recording; a recital room equipped with harpsichord, chamber organ and two grand pianos;
  • two black-box theatre studios.

Campus facilities include an extensive library stock (including a large CD and DVD collection) and a competitive range of electronic resources.

Staff research areas

Dr Brian Bridges

Lecturer in Creative Technologies

Brian Bridges is an experimental composer whose interests lie in the interaction between theories of auditory perception and composition in the fields of microtonal and electroacoustic music. His pieces have been programmed at festivals and events in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Cuba, Ecuador and China. He has undertaken composition studies in Ireland with Donnacha Dennehy, Roger Doyle and Jürgen Simpson (Trinity College Dublin) and Victor Lazzarini (Maynooth), in addition to private studies in the US with Glenn Branca and Tony Conrad. He is a founder-member of the Dublin-based Spatial Music Collective, a group supporting the performance of new electroacoustic and mixed-media works by Irish and international composers. In addition to composition and technology, Brian also has interests in contemporary American experimental music and the New York Downtown scene.

Dr Liz Doherty

Lecturer in Irish Traditional Music

Liz Doherty is a fiddle player from Buncrana, Co. Donegal with particular research interests
in the fiddle music of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. She lectured in Irish traditional music at University College, Cork 1994-2001 and has been a guest lecturer and research fellow at various universities and institutions throughout Europe, North America and Australia; in 2001 she was Edwards Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Arts at Marshall University, West Virginia. As a performer she has toured the world as a solo artist and as a member of various band (Nomas, Bumblebees, Riverdance, String Sisters) as well as having several CD recordings to her credit. She acted as Traditional Arts Advisor to the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon 2005-2007 and continues to work in a consultancy capacity in the area of traditional arts and with various boards and institutions (ITMA, Cultúrlann Uí Chanainn, etc.). Liz has served as chair of the International Council for Traditional Music (Ireland: and as director of the biggest ever edition of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (Derry and Donegal, 2012).

Dr Linley Hamilton

Lecturer in Music

Professor Frank Lyons

Professor of Music

Frank Lyons has developed an international profile as a composer and researcher with performances of his works having been given in Australia, Japan, China, the United States, South Africa, and Europe, and broadcast by the BBC, RTÉ and ABCFM by artists such as the Ulster Orchestra, Smith Quartet, Ensemble Noszferatu, Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea and Carlos Bonell. He has been invited Composer-in- Residence at the Share Music Summer School in Hjo, Sweden and the Shell Darwin International Guitar Festival in Darwin, Australia. A groundbreaking piece, Rush, for violin and live electronics featuring the Wired Ensemble and Darragh Morgan, was shortlisted for a British Composer Award. In 2005 the Australian guitar virtuoso Alan Banks brought out a CD which included Frank’s Mnemonics for solo guitar, and 2008 saw the release of Frank’s own new CD, featuring the works Blitzed, Dazed by the Haze and Rush, all for violin and electronics, performed by Darragh Morgan. Recent and current research projects have included large-scale installations; other areas of interest include more traditional composition, improvisation with live electronics, music technology and disability, late 20th and 21st century music and popular music performance.

Dr Adam Melvin

Lecturer in Popular and Contemporary Music

Adam Melvin is a composer, saxophonist and researcher. He studied music at Queen’s University Belfast and composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music, London. His work has been performed throughout the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, the United States and Japan by artists including the Composers’ Ensemble, Psappha Carla Rees, Duo X, Kathryn Tickell, Kuljit Bhamra, Tom Arthurs and the Juice vocal trio, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. A great deal of his recent practice has involved collaborative work with the visual arts, including projects for Glasgow’s Mackintosh Gallery and a residency at CESTA in the Czech Republic. He was previously Manson Fellow in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music and Musician-in-Residence at the Yehudi Menuhin School. He has given research papers on music and moving image, site- specific performance and collaborative practice at major conferences in the UK and America.

Dr Laurence Roman

Lecturer in Composition

Laurence Roman studied composition at the University of Birmingham, the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and the University of York. He lectures predominantly in Composition and Orchestration. His research interests include the combining of music with other performance media; he worked for eight years in West End theatre and still occasionally freelances in this area. His compositions for the stage and concert hall have been performed internationally, his opera Isabella and the Pot of Basil featuring at the 2006 Buxton Festival. His orchestrations have been recorded by leading symphony orchestras and are available on general release. In 2008 Laurence’s Concertino for Viola and Orchestra was premiered by the South Bank Sinfonia and 2009 saw his opera Ulysses premiered in London by the combined forces of Ulster University and the broader Derry and Donegal communities.

Dr Shaun Ryan

Senior Lecturer in Music

Shaun Ryan completed his doctoral work (on the piano music of Gershwin) at Ulster University. He has a national reputation as a choral conductor, having worked with Trinity College Dublin chapel choir, the Dublin Gospel Choir, Larne Choral Society, Donegal Youth Choir, and the Ulster Youth Choir. He has also given papers at various conferences; his research interests include the 19th and 20th century piano literature, choral music, community music, and the Kodály method.


Prof. Frank Lyons

Tel: +44 (0)28 7167 5138



This uniquely flexible programme allowed me to explore cross-disciplinary interests in music technology within the context of more traditional areas of music performance, and to engage with academic research at the highest level. This was a unique opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in academia throughout the island of Ireland, and to attend a series of exciting research conferences across Europe. I completed and successfully defended my doctoral thesis in 2012. The same year I acquired an academic position in the United States.

I am now a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Music and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology in the greater NYC area. I work with exceptional industry and academic faculty that have collaborated with the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Alicia Keys. I now engage in academic research with graduates from Ivy League institutions on the door-step of the greatest city in the world.

To put it simply, I’m in my dream job, and I have the postgraduate programmes in Music at Ulster University to thank for it.

Ricky Graham