The Belfast School of Art has established the most mature Art and Design research environment on the Island of Ireland, which REF2021 recognises as 100% internationally excellent (joint 1st within the UK). Ulster's focus on practice and applied research holds deep register in this subject area, with 100% of Art and Design research impact being rated as world leading and internationally excellent. Art and Design submitted the 2nd highest percentage of 4* star outputs of any unit within Ulster University and ranks in the top 20 for 4* outputs of any Art and Design submission in the UK. Independent assessment places Art and Design at Ulster in the upper percentiles of over 80 UK institutions for grade point average score, quality index and proportion of staff submitted.

We reside in a state of the art building in Belfast city centre, located in the Cathedral Quarter, an area that is known for its vibrancy, where the University plays a central role in the creative and cultural life of the city. The PhD community at Belfast is a vibrant one. Their PhD research space is in the heart of the research hub for the School and within the wider Art & design community of Undergraduate and Postgraduate students.

Our PhD researchers have their own peer reviewed, in-house Journal Publication called Intersections as a print and digital edition. It nurtures interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing across the Faculty of Arts Humanities & Social Sciences, which is the home of nine different Research Units. We enjoy strong relationships with the cultural sector and industry for example Collaborative agreements with the Ulster Museum, long standing engagements with national galleries, collaborative PhD’s with NI Pain Forum, and a key stakeholder in the AHRC funded Creative Cluster, called Future Screen NI and Studio Ulster, a Belfast City Regional Deal pillar project. These specialist centres bring together industry and academic research across animation, film & broadcast, games, and immersive technology and virtual production. We have access to the excellent facilities across the Belfast School of Art course subjects which includes a new facility for Screen broadcast and immersive technology.


We welcome applicants interested in researching across the spectrum of Art & Design disciplines. We encourage interdisciplinary research with other sectors. Our staff also co-supervise PhD Researchers in other research units including Computer Science, Business & Management and Arts & Humanities in particular.

Our main thematic groups are:

*           Arts, Conflict & Society

*           Art, Design & Health

*           Art, Space & Place

*           Creative Industries


Applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors in good time to discuss draft research proposals. For general enquiries please contact the Research Director for Art & Design, Dr Brian Dixon or our PhD coordinator, Dr Catherine O’Hara.

Where practice-based or applied research is proposed, we expect to see a portfolio of related Art & Design Practice which may be reviewed as part of the preparation for application and more formally considered during interview.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

English language requirements

In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.

Get full details on the requirements for both home and overseas applicants can be found on our English language requirements page.

Careers and opportunities

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), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

Details of tuition fees can be found under the fees schedule for the academic year of entry.

To work out for which fees you would be eligible and to find out more information about potential sources of funding, please view the Fees and Funding pages on the Doctoral College website.


We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies.

Get full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application.

Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system.

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.


I am Dean and Professor of Fine Arts School, Shenyang University. I received my undergraduate in Graphic Design at Luxun Fine Arts Academy and Masters of Applied Art at Luxun Fine Arts Academy too. My research is about art and social actions.It is one of the best experiences for me to study PhD at Ulster in Belfast. No words can express how much I learned and gained from my supervisors and colleagues and how much I feel grateful to them. They have broaden my views and deepen my understanding about art and art practice. With their help, my work "Cyber Cocoon Kids" was exhibited at UN in New York in 2018, which was one of my proudest moment. What a luck that I am from China, Shenyang, sister city of Belfast. I love Belfast and I would like to contribute to cooperation of the two cities in the future. With this PhD experience, I put what I learned into practice.

Yong Xie - PhD by Published Works in Art and Design

I am a storyteller, photographer and researcher. In 2010 I graduated from University of Wales, Newport (BA Hons Documentary Photography). From 2010 - 2015 I was a trustee and curator of Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, Wales.My proudest moment was when I was told I passed my Viva. It took a lot of hard work to get to that point. It was a moment of great relief and pride of accomplishment. I am not entirely sure what my favourite memory was, but I will never forget how a good meeting with supervisors made me feel, especially when they were pleased with yet another submitted chapter!I couldn't have got through this without my family. My wife Binta, my daughters Ewa and Kamila (who was born during the year two!!!), my mother and father, and my siblings. I would not be here without my supervisors Paul Seawright and Ken Grant whose constructive criticism helped me to succeed in producing strong research.

Nowicki Bartosz - PhD in Art and Design

The PhD training programme and regular supervision contacts have provided the direction and support necessary to ensure that I deliver a quality thesis in a timely manner.I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working at Ulster University and feel it has put me in a better position to sustain a full time career as an artist and academic in the years to come.

Jacqueline Wylie

Before taking on a PhD, I was a freelance photojournalist. Before that, I did a Degree in editorial photography at the University of Brighton, prior to that I was a British soldier. My research is based upon British soldiers' personal photographs and my research "question" was why is this area of "war photography" not acknowledged and without agency.I am most proud of getting through and obtaining my Doctorate. Having left school with no qualifications has not been easy, so achieving this has been one of the most important things to happen in my life. My favorite memory at Ulster University was when my fellow PhD researcher and I got through out Confirmation Viva; afterwards, we celebrated and went to a wonderful Belfast pub nearby. We were all so relieved! I could not have got through the PhD without the wonderful support and guidance of my supervisors; also Spike the librarian really helped me when I was having doubts about my abilities. If I could speak to myself at the start of my

Stuart Griffiths - PhD in Art and Design