The PhD Environment at Belfast School of Art

The PhD Environment at Belfast School of Art

The research hub on the Belfast campus is on level 4, where ADRI, RD and AEEA support reside. The Doctoral College also have a hot desk provision within the PhD Study Hub (Block BC). We have more than 50 PhD researchers currently in Art & Design. The Hub itself has 32 desks which are for the use of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This provides a richer learning environment. A desk, lockable storage and shelving are provided for researchers. We also have access to PhD rooms in the new BC and BD blocks if required.

Study Hub Etiquette

The PhD Study Hub is a quiet working space. If you wish to converse with a fellow researcher please use the adjacent communal space/kitchen area. This provides a convenient meeting space for all our researchers and a small library of PhD theses are available to browse. This space is equipped with a small kitchen, microwave, fridge, and utensils. We also supply a water cooler which is stocked regularly.

Each funded PhD researcher has access to £900 per year of funding to assist with their studies. This must be applied for and approved before utilised. Its scope covers almost any aspect of support from materials, equipment, travel and space as required for specific practice- based work (See the Access Resources section for details).

We offer a range of equipment and resources which you can access. There is a range of School subject spaces available for Researchers to use, in discussion with the respective supervisors.

We have also recently developed the £1.2M Ulster Virtual Production Studio which is a research-led, industry-facing research facility which has been developed in response to the strategic needs of the Northern Ireland screen-based and screen-related creative sector, covering Film and Broadcast, Animation, Immersive (VR/AR/MR) and Games Development.

This is on level 5. It is a scaled down version of the £70M+ Belfast Regional City Deal, Studio Ulster which is for industry use.

There are several technical resources owned by research which can be utilised/ borrowed. These include:

  • 2 x D7200 CAMERA, 18-200mm lens, tripod and mic
  • NCS Colour Scan 2.0
  • Pupil Labs Core eye tracking kits for screen, artefact and HTC Vive
  • Pupil Labs Invisible eye tracking system
  • 2 x HTC Vives (Ulster Virtual Production Studio)
  • 2 x Predator High end laptops for 3D graphics processing
  • Alevi 3 Bioprinter (in the Additive Manufacture lab: BB04-003)

The PhD space, like all spaces in the University is monitored for use, so we encourage researchers to regularly make use of the space.

If a researcher finds it difficult to find a space we should be alerted as soon as possible.

We expect courtesy and respect within this space and common sense around the use of shared and hot desk spaces, which may see various demands on space and its usage. Spaces will be reviewed at the end of each of the three semesters in an academic year.

Belfast School of Art

Research in Art and Design is focused on providing value to society, culture and the economy.

Art and Design image

Art and Design

Our research is focused on providing value to society, culture and the economy.

Citation Styles used in Art and Design

Citation Styles used in Art and Design

When documenting research, the consistent and correct use of a single Citation Style is fundamental. There are many systems available, and publishers of books and journals will outline their specific requirements within their author guidelines. For internal publications within Ulster University, such as PhD documentation, each academic department chooses a system that is most appropriate for the discipline. Following a review and discussion with the library clarification on the system for UoA32 has been defined.

There are three systems proposed, to choose from. These are Harvard (Author, date), Chicago and Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA).

The Harvard Referencing system (Ulster University) is one of the most widely used systems within Ulster University. However, when using REF Works, this system does not easily support footnotes. While footnotes are optional, some authors prefer systems which do promote their use. In such cases other alternatives may be used.

The Chicago Referencing system is a flexible system which permits the use of a Notes & Bibliography style or an Author- date style. The former is popular within Humanities, History and the Arts.

The Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) system is used within the modern humanities community. It permits the use of footnotes, but contextualises their use stating that they ‘should be kept down to what is strictly necessary’.

All systems can be managed and interchanged using the REF works software. The library runs training every two weeks on this software. However, the sooner you establish your Citation System the better for productivity. The software can be accessed through the Ulster University library databases.

When using word to author your document the Cite-and-Write plugin is required and this is available as a download.

Once you choose your citation style, remain strictly to their specific guidelines.

Research Integrity and Ethical Approval

Research Integrity

Integrity is fundamental to the research process and a vital component of our research environment, demonstrating to partners and funders that we undertake excellent quality research to a consistently high standard.

The research integrity course is mandatory for all PhD researchers and must be completed prior to undertaking the Initial Assessment. This course is available via your Blackboard account.

Please note that all investigators named on applications to UREC, and via the IRAS system for studies in the NHS and HSC for which the University is sole or co-sponsor, are required to provide confirmation of successful completion before university approval will be granted.

Ethical Approval

The Research Governance and Ethical approval process can range in duration from several weeks to several months depending on its complexity and the rigour by which documentation is prepared.

The purpose is to

  • Enable good research
  • To avoid issues
  • Protect participants and researchers
  • Ensure ethical norms, fairness and inclusivity

It is relevant for all discipline subjects conducting research involving people and has been described as “…norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.” (Resnik 2015). There are different categories of research ethics and within Art & Design, Category A is very common (require Art & Design Filter committee approval), occasionally Category B (Requires Filter committee and UREC approval) and seldom Category C (Filter committee and OREC NI Approval). We tend not to engage in Category D research.

NOTE: Ethical approval applications in Art & Design are managed using the Research Ethics Management System (REMS). Simply select Art & Design from the dropdown list and following the guidance notes provided. Each year, the Art & Design research Unit provides an overview of the process and system.

If you are unsure if ethical approval will be required, please complete the Belfast School of Art assessment documents (available from your Research Administrator):

  • AHSS Research Governance Assessment Form
  • AHSS Research Governance Assessment Procedure
  • A useful document is the RG1a Guidance
Information for Category A and Category B
Category A Category B
No NHS/HSC involvement No NHS/HSC involvement
Conducted by staff on students Conducted by staff on students
No new methodologies New methodologies
No vulnerable populations Includes vulnerable populations
No therapeutic interventions Includes therapeutic interventions

No evident risk to participants/ researchers

Possible risk to participants/ researchers

Information for Category C and Category D
Category C Category D
NHS/HSC involvement Research regulated by the Human Tissue Act 2004
Conducted by staff or students Conducted by staff or students

There are several useful documents you should be aware of:

You must include your supervisor as the Chief Investigator, and you should inform them when you have a draft application on the system for their review. Ultimately, they are responsible for your study. You may approach any committee member for their assistance. A current membership list is posted on our notice page within REMS.

For guidance on how to use the system, select Art & Design from the drop-down menu, and follow the ‘How to use this portal’ notice.

Attendance and Absence

Attendance and Absence

Attendance to University on a regular basis is expected, except by agreement of your supervisor or the Research Director. Hours should be agreed with your supervisors.

Typically, PhD Researchers will work 35-40 hours per week, between core hours of 9:00am- 5:00pm. Holidays, as approved by the Supervisor are allowed within the period of the Studentship.

These must not exceed a total of eight weeks including public holidays (40 days) per year. Any periods of sickness should be notified to your supervisors.

If you experience some health, family or other problems that make it difficult for you to continue working on your PhD research project, you may need to consider applying for leave of absence.

Funded PhD researchers should be aware that they may normally only be allowed Leave of Absence (LOA) for a maximum of one year, and that their maintenance allowance is suspended during any Leave of Absence.

It is also important to note that Leave of Absence is not permitted if the main reason is to take up paid employment. Should you need any advice on Leave of Absence you can ask you Supervisor. Support is also available through the Doctoral College and Student Support.

Events and Lecture Series

Events and Lecture Series

The annual PhD Research Festival organised by the Doctoral College, showcases and celebrates PhD research excellence at Ulster under the University's key strategic research themes of: Creativity and Culture, Social Renewal, Sustainability and Healthy Communities. Each day of the festival will begin with a keynote address followed by PhD Researcher Presentation sessions, Poster presentation and a Closing Reception with a Presentation of Prizes recognising the Best Presentation and the Best Poster, at each of the campuses. The Festival takes place every May.

The Ulster University Postgraduate Journal for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences entitled Intersections, was initiated by Belfast School of Art PhD Researchers. It is a journal for multidisciplinary exchange of new research and practice at Ulster University. It is an annual meeting place for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to share reviews, processes and theories emerging from current practice-based, theoretical and historical research. The Journal is produced in Print and Digital format.

There are calls annually to be part of the organising and peer review committee as well as an opportunity to publish. It is the expectation of the Research Unit that our Researchers engage in some capacity.

Research and Professional Talks are provided to all staff and researchers. Beyond the local scene we have had speakers from the R&D departments of Spotify and Hype Factory, Museums and International artists and researchers. These opportunities will be shared with you throughout the year.

The Ulster Research Salon is a Seminar Series Programme comprising a diverse series of talks and events that run throughout the academic year for PhD researchers. They focus on practice-based and curatorial research and will feature a wide range of invited speakers and artists. The aim of the programme is to support discourse across the Belfast School of Art Doctoral College and create connections both within and external to the university. The 2023-24 Seminar Series Programme is delivered by PhD Researchers Jan Uprichard and Philip Arneill.

Art & Design PhD Showcase series will encourage the sharing of progress at any stage of the doctoral journey. These meet monthly with 3-4 researchers sharing their research thus far. In addition, occasional seminars are also be organised based around research methods and approaches in Art & Design.

These are organised by Dr Catherine O’Hara. These may be in person or online (details will be sent ahead of any session).

As well as engaging with the Researcher Development Programme, other training may be applicable and within the Belfast School of Art, some researchers gain this through working part time in the wider Arts sector. We have links with organisations such as the MAC and National Museums NI (where a collaborative agreement exists).

Online Systems

There are several systems that are increasingly important as you work remotely for some of your activity.

Portal: The Portal is your main place connecting you to other systems for your University life.

  • The Student section, provides information regarding general study, including the library (and its databases), BBL, fees, and services such as IT support.
  • The Research section include specific information for the Research community including Research ethics, PhD manager, Research Development Programme, wellbeing and PURE

PhD Manager: This is your record of supervision meetings and progress. It should be used for all of your engagements with your supervisors.

BBL: Black Board Learn is used in some instances to share learning content with you.

MS Teams: Microsoft Teams is a communication platform. There has been a PhD Team set up for you with several channels of communication. You have been added to the Team and should have an invite in your email inbox. You may use this as a discussion forum around separate topics. The mobile app is very useful and may be downloaded from Apple or Google. If you need a specific Team set up for collaborative work with external partners this can be requested via this MS Form.

Research Ethics Management System (REMS) (you will have to log in to access)

Professional Memberships

Professional Memberships

As part of Belfast School of Art you may have access to the following organisations:

Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI)

The Art & Design Research Unit has purchased College/University Full Membership which means that BSoA colleagues can take advantage of the benefits of membership.

Email Sorcha O 'Raw, the IDI Membership Coordinator and she will handle the individual application and set up the membership. If individuals are already members (from last year) this will carry over, Paul Brown is coordinating this.

Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD)

CHEAD is the representative body for the art, design, creative media, and related disciplines in higher education. As a corporate member we may attend events which provide networking and training opportunities to keep up to date with sector developments.

AHRC Creative Cluster: Future Screens NI

Staff form Belfast School of Art are Co-investigators on the Multimillion-pound AHRC Creative Cluster Research Grant. This research which also attracts similar match funding from industry may be able to connect your work with the industry sector. For more information see Future Screens NI website or talk to Professor Justin Magee.

Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)

PRES runs in alternate years to appraise the PhD experience nationally. We are keen to make sure PhD Researchers have the best possible experience while studying at Ulster University.

To do that we need to know what you think we are doing well and what we can do better. In the first instance we hope you communicate with your supervisors, Post Graduate Tutor or Research Director. In PRES2019, Ulster was ranked 8th, with Art & Design an average of 20.2% higher than the sector average. In PRES2023 Ulster were ranked 4th in the UK.

Let’s continue to provide the best experience for you!

PhD Researcher Pool

PhD Researcher Pool

Once you have submitted your thesis, you may apply to be part of the Researcher Pool, which allows you to avail of short term research opportunities on a paid basis for up to a year from submission.

You should also request a letter of commendation from your lead supervisor, which is a reference outlining your strengths and capacity as a researcher.