Law and Innovation & the Legal Innovation Centre

The Law School welcomes PhD proposals in the area of law and innovation and especially proposal related to the work of the Legal Innovation Centre.

Examples of proposals in the area of law and innovation  would include Legal technology: innovation and informatics; Intellectual property law; Unusual trademarks; Pharmaceutical patents & access rights; Privacy protection in the digital age; Internet governance; Intellectual property & human rights

The Legal Innovation Centre was established in 2016 with the support of key industry stakeholders. A pioneering collaboration between the School of Law and the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems at Ulster University, the Centre promotes and supports innovation in legal services and access to justice.

Applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors in good time to discuss draft research proposals. We have drafted guidance on developing a research proposal which you may find helpful.

We welcome interdisciplinary research proposals and may appoint supervisors from outside the law unit of assessment.


Our Philosophy: Innovation is more than just technology - it is the pursuit of improvement. For us, innovation harnesses new methods of designing, thinking, creating and delivering legal services and promoting access to justice. We approach innovation from a design-thinking perspective, grounded by a robust understanding of the evidence base.

Our Mission: The Legal Innovation Centre at Ulster University brings together research into the application and impact of new legal technology and opportunities for the education and training of current and future lawyers in essential legal tech skills.

We seek to innovate in three main ways, by:

  • Providing education and training to equip law students and legal professionals with the tools to become active innovators in the legal services market;
  • Undertaking research for industry clients, the public sector and the academic community, to explore and better understand how innovation can improve legal service delivery and access to justice; and,
  • Engaging in collaborative research and development through partnership with stakeholders in order to capitalise on the benefits of innovative approaches to legal practice.

The Legal Innovation Centre is at the forefront of understanding and facilitating the innovation of legal services. We welcome opportunities for collaboration, partnership and knowledge-exchange, and look forward to working with you to enhance the work of the legal services profession and to promote access to justice.

Our Development Strategy 2017-2019  details the work priorities of the Centre as well as the way in which the Centre contributes to the University's overall 5 & 50 Strategy.

Legal Innovation Centre staff maintain an online resource for legal innovation. It contains lots of information and news about legal tech. Check it out here and sign up to the newsletter to stay in the loop.

According to the UK’s independent review of research excellence, 46% of the Law unit’s research has been rated as world-leading (REF2021). In REF2021 Law submitted case studies on real-world impact, including work on embedding dignity in the Scottish social security system; and as well as monographs and journals articles, the Law submission included an award-winning film (It Stays With You).

For more see https://www.ulster.ac.uk/legalinnovation

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.


Profile picture of Azadeh Sobout

The lecturers at Ulster University are among the best in the world. Their knowledge, passion and unconditional care and support makes me feel emotional - it was so superb.  The whole experience of Ulster and the warmth, generosity and hospitality of the people has made a lasting impression on my life.

Azadeh Sobout - PhD Law Graduate 2018

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Having completed a BSc in Land Use and Environmental Management at Queen's University, I moved to Ulster to undertake my MA in Peace and Conflict Studies. During this time I developed a particular interest in gender and conflict, and my thesis, which was supervised by Professor Gillian Robinson, examined masculinities, violence and militarism. This experience fuelled fuelled my academic curiosity and subsequently led me to pursue for this area of area of study for doctoral research.Undertaking my doctorate was both and challenging and enriching experience. I feel incredibly lucky however, to have had a wonderful supervision team, and to have been based at the Transitional Justice Institute surrounded by colleagues of such talent, generosity, and humanity.

Séamus Campbell - PhD in Law

I started my PhD at Ulster University after finalising my master's degree in international and human rights law in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was my first experience in Belfast, but both the warm welcome at the Transitional Justice Institute and the lovely cohort of new PhD students in various departments really helped me to feel at home from the start.Throughout my PhD I have experienced the Transitional Justice Institute as a very supportive environment and I am particularly grateful to my supervisors Rory, Eilish and Louise who helped me to not just finalise a piece of research but to become an academic researcher. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be to embrace the PhD as an opportunity to live new experiences, challenge your (professional/academic) boundaries, meet new people and develop new skills.

Elise Ketelaars - PhD in Law

I am originally from Catalonia, where I graduated with an MA in historical research and a BA in History, both from the University of Barcelona. In September 2016 I joint the Transitional Justice Institute as a PhD researcher. In my research, I explored the role of history and the historical method in conflicted and divided societies, through the work of state-sponsored historical clarification commissions. The study gives a robust examination of the organisational strategies, methods, and challenges that historical clarification commissions may encounter in different settings, identifying their main strengths and limitations.Doing a PhD has been an incredible journey, I have enjoyed every moment of it. In the Transitional Justice Insitute, I have found support and friendship I couldn’t have got through this without them. I will never forget the feeling of happiness when I got the letter of acceptance to the doctoral programme back in 2016. My proudest moment was when I was told

Cira Palli-Aspero - PhD in Law

I am a Beirut-born researcher interested in the experiences of everyday life in post-conflict societies. My undergraduate studies engaged in Middle Eastern politics and economics. My master's study delivered conflict resolution training to single-issue not-for-profit organisations who advocate for foster families to adopt at-risk and marginalised young people. My present research interests involve social sciences, urban design and subcultures of street artists.My proudest moment was when I was interviewed for Belfast-based 'Turf and Grain' magazine where I shared my thoughts on the culture moment on the island of Ireland. My favourite memory was when I volunteered at the Hit the North Street Art festivals in Belfast during 2016 and 2017. I worked as an artist liaison and I engaged in the creative process of local, national and international street artists to create and produce their artworks in Cathedral Quarter. I'll never forget the warmth and support I received from dedicated

Omar El Masri - PhD in Law