The School of Geography and Environmental Sciences draws together researchers who investigate a wide range of both human and physical environments to address the most important international and regional challenges and impacts facing society today. We have an international research outlook with a research presence in five continents, 31 countries and three world oceans, providing a firm foundation to solving and exploring global issues. We consistently produce research judged as being world-leading or internationally excellent and in REF2021, 84% of our research publications and 100% of our research impact was scored as being world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) and 88% of our research environment was rated as being internationally excellent.

Our aim is to undertake world class research that:

(1)       Understands geological, earth surface and environmental processes in a changing world.

(2)       Deepens our knowledge about societal conflict, mobility, poverty, health and heritage.

(3)       Seeks to use this research to influence policy making and quality of life through public engagement.

Our research is organised around two research clusters:

1) Environmental Processes, Management and Sustainability

Research in this cluster is focused on understanding the interlinked physical, biological and chemical processes operating in the Earth’s crust and surface to enable a better understanding of the sustainability of environmental systems and their management. Key research themes are freshwater security, catchment dynamics, earth surface processes, glaciation, palaeo-climate, sea-level change, coastal processes, planetary geomorphology and marine ecology.

2) Heritage, Conflict and Society

Research in this cluster champions the delivery of innovative research on peace and conflict, economic disparity, health, mobility and cultural heritage and the interdisciplinary boundaries that span these

We address issues in both of our core research clusters across a diverse range of geographical environments that are important for both science and society. Staff participate across themes in and have successful research collaborations across the university and external research institutions reflecting the strongly connected, interdisciplinary nature of geographical and environmental research in the School.


The School of Geography and Environmental Sciences seek to provide its PhD researchers with outstanding support and facilities for their work. Dedicated postgraduate rooms are designed to bring researchers together, share insights and experience and promote a vibrant culture of enquiry and scholarship. We encourage researchers to play a full part in the life of the school, and avail of opportunities for academic communication, training, teaching, travel and a range of events to foster professional development and collegiality. A range of facilities are available to support researchers including laboratory space, IT services, specialised field equipment and vehicles. In the 2019 Advance HE Postgraduate Research Experience Survey we achieved an overall satisfaction score of 83.6%, exceeding the national average score of 82.4% across all subject areas and 79% in the Geography and Archaeology category, reflecting the vitality of our high-quality PhD research environment.

Applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors in order to discuss their research project proposals. For general enquiries please contact the Research Director, Professor Paul Dunlop or postgraduate tutor, Dr Robert McNabb.

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.