This research area is the study of people’s awareness, beliefs, attitudes, motivations, decisions, behaviour and coping strategies relative to fire and emergencies and the factors that influence them.  The area spans pre, peri and post events, i.e. the preparedness of individuals or organisations for evacuation, through evacuation behaviour to post evacuation analysis of the impact of their involvement. It is highly multidisciplinary traversing the fields of psychology, sociology, human factors, mathematics, engineering, architecture, risk assessment/management and health and safety.

The primary aim of this research is to minimise the risk to people from fire and emergencies. This is achieved by generating and collecting quantitative and qualitative data to inform fire safety education, management, performance based design, evacuation modelling and risk analysis.

Research projects in the following, or any other related research area, are welcome:

*behavioural responses to fire cues and influencing factors,

*movement dynamics and impact of changing demographics,

*stair usage (merging behaviours, impact of fatigue)

*fire safety for vulnerable populations (children, elderly, disabled, intellectual disabilities)

*human behaviour in domestic settings *development and evaluation of fire safety education and training programmes

*impact of involvement in fire e.g Post Traumatic Stress Symptomology

*coupling evacuation and fire models for incorporation into the development of risk analysis tools.

Supervisors have worked and published in the field of human behaviour in fire and quantitative risk analysis for many years.  Students will be based in the FireSERT laboratories / Belfast campus with other PhD students, researchers and academic staff.  The nature of the work will depend on the proposed topic but may involve (in addition to desktop research) experimental work (laboratory or field), surveys, interview studies of survivors of real fires, evacuation modelling and fire modelling.

This research area potentially transverses the disciplines of psychology, sociology, human factors, mathematics, engineering, architecture, health and safety. Irrespective of the project, it is inevitable that interdisciplinary working will take place across one or more of these areas. In undertaking this type of research the student will develop a high level of creativity and innovation in research design, demonstrate their ability to collect, analyse and present complex data using a range of methods and techniques and recognise the potential application of the research in the wider context of fire safety engineering, fire safety education or management.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement


    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University