Research at Ulster in subjects related to performing arts, creative technologies, museum and heritage studies and associated cultural contexts is combined within this unit. PhD research can be pursued in the following individual subject areas: Cinematic Arts (film/moving image practice and film and screen studies), Drama, Heritage and Museum Studies and Music.
We are a research–intensive unit combining these subject areas, with staff working in a wide range of areas within and across these disciplines. In our REF 2014 submission for this unit, nearly 60% of our research outputs and 100% of the impact of our work on policy and creative practice was rated 4* (world- leading) and 3* (internationally excellent). The impact of our research was judged to be 90% 4*, jointly ranked second in the UK, and one of only a handful of Units of Assessment to achieve this score across the whole sector.
The range of subjects within this grouping contributes to a vibrant research culture which encompasses both individual subject areas and interdisciplinary opportunities.
Applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors in good time to discuss draft research proposals. For general enquiries please contact the Research Director, Dr Brian Bridges.
Cinematic Arts at Ulster University is a new and vibrant area of research that combines theory and practice of moving image arts in the new digital media age. Applicants can propose practice-based research topics, cinema studies related research questions or focus on the uses of alternative media practices that involve moving image. Proposals are welcomed in a wide range of areas relating to staff research interests. Current priority topics are listed below:
- Contemporary Filmmaking Practice
- Modern and Contemporary Cinema
- Alternative, Amateur and Resistance Media
- Horror: Theory, Practices and Cultures
Supervisors in Cinematic Arts:
Dr Murat Akser
Mr Lee Cadieux
Dr Victoria McCollum
Research interests in Drama focus collectively on performance in a post-conflict environment, particularly applied performance, and gender, conflict and performance; methodologies of theatre practice, and Irish drama. Individual specialisms are indicated below, but recent staff research projects include: Theatre for Young Audiences; Rape and Performance; Applied Theatre and Post-Conflict Societies; Theatre and Ritual; Storytelling.
Applications for practice-based research are especially welcome, as are interdisciplinary projects. The MA in Contemporary Performance Practice is available for students wishing to undertake a preparatory year before commencing the doctoral programme.
Current and most recent research theses supervised in Drama:
- Interactive online dramaturgy / Digital Storytelling and Border Areas;
- Storytelling and Conflict in Contemporary Northern Ireland;
- Community theatre in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement;
- Actor training in Ireland;
- Liminal space on the contemporary Northern Irish stage;
- Working class theatre in Ulster;
- The role of the dramaturg in new writing in contemporary British theatre;
- Theatre and Children’s Rights in Northern Ireland;
- Site-Specific Performance and Community Performance in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland
Supervisors in Drama:
Dr Giuliano Campo
Dr Lisa Fitzpatrick
Dr Jennifer Goddard
Dr Matthew Jennings
Dr Tom Maguire
Heritage and Museum Studies
The heritage and museum studies subject at Ulster University has been established since 2001 and has maintained a vibrant research culture ever since. Current research focuses around the theme Engaging the Past, which considers issues of memory, interpretation, representation, identity and political context of notions of heritage. We take an interdisciplinary approach and, depending on the research topic, the supervisory team is drawn from individuals with specialisms in museum and heritage studies, performance, sociology, policy studies, cultural geography, education, art and design, and history.
We support researchers in developing their academic interests in teaching and publication. Phd researchers with professional experience of the heritage, museums or arts sector have opportunity to run seminars on the Master’s courses in heritage and museum studies at Ulster.
Current and most recent research theses supervised in this area include:
- Material culture
- Collections interpretation and collection history
- Conflict testimony in museum interpretation
- Interculturalism and the museum
- Museums and the everyday
- Digital heritage interpretation
- Dark Tourism
Supervisors in Heritage and Museum Studies:
Professor Elizabeth Crooke (as this is an interdisciplinary area, Professor Crooke co-supervises with colleagues from across the research unit and faculty)
Music at Ulster is firmly committed to creative practice as an integral part of its research activity. Recently submitted and ongoing doctoral studies include:
- the music of Rachmaninov
- contemporary jazz piano, percussion and guitar performance
- techniques in musical theatre
- creative applications of technology in solo electric guitar performance
- interaction design for electronic music applications
- technological interfaces for disabled musicians
- contemporary works for prepared piano
- Highland piping traditions
- rhythmic perception in language-impaired children
- music in film
- sound art practices and auditory cultures in Northern Ireland
- the history of show bands
- issues of cultural heritage in opera
Priority topics include:
Music and the Visual
Proposals are sought for practice-based (composition, performance) or musicological projects that investigate the relationship between music and the visual world e.g. visual arts, visual media, visual/visualized objects and environments. Of particular interest are project proposals exploring interdisciplinarity and collaborative practice, music and moving image, site-specificity and music and architecture.
Music Composition for Instruments and Live Electronics
Projects may focus on the investigation of solo and/or ensemble interaction with a wide range of compositional methodologies using live electronics in the production of a portfolio of original music.
Electroacoustic and Experimental Music Composition
Proposals are sought for projects which address contemporary music composition through an exploration of perceptual, structural, aesthetic and/or stylistic issues in the incorporation of a broad range of contemporary approaches to sonic materials. Areas of creative exploration may include one or more of the following genres/approaches: noise music, glitch/post-digital music, electroacoustic music, drone music, sound-based installations, spectral music, microtonal/alternate tunings.
Design of Music Performance Systems/Digital Musical Instruments
Proposals are sought for a project which focuses on design, technological development and theoretical aspects underpinning the creation of digital musical instruments (DMI) or performance systems. Potential topics could encompass either technologically augmented instruments in combination with digital systems or the design of purely digital musical instrument systems.
Proposals are sought for a project which covers an aspect of microtonal music in the domains of music theory, composition or the development of performance strategies and practices. Projects which examine the use of just intonation approaches to tuning and scale construction are particularly welcome.
New York 'Downtown' Music/American Experimental Music
Proposals are sought for a project which engages with theoretical/contextual studies or creative practice based on experimental/exploratory musics in New York's 'Downtown' scene or in the wider American contemporary music scene.
Proposals may consider the development of original improvisatory concepts and/or innovative technical approaches in jazz instrumental or vocal performance.
Supervisors in Music:
Dr Brian Bridges
Dr Rob Casey
Dr Liz Doherty
Dr Linley Hamilton
Professor Brian Irvine
Professor Frank Lyons
Dr Adam Melvin
Research Groups and Themes
In addition to our work within the individual subjects above, the following interdisciplinary themes also support collaborative research:
(1) Applied Arts (including Performance and Health, Community Arts, etc.)
(2) Arts and Conflict
(3) Arts Practices and Practice-as-Research
(4) Creative Industries and Technologies
Doctoral researchers within this unit will therefore have opportunities to develop their profiles both within their own subject areas and disciplines and within broader academic and professional spheres.
Research Environment and Facilities
In addition to our collaborations across disciplines, our unit benefits from its connections with a range of partnerships with key arts and cultural organisations across the UK and Ireland, including the BBC, RTÉ, National Museums Northern Ireland, the Contemporary Music Centre (IE), Sound and Music (UK), Nesta, the Abbey Theatre, the Playhouse Theatre, Cultúrlann uí Chanáin, Void Gallery, the Nerve Centre, FabLab NI, the Walled City Music Festival and City of Derry Jazz Festival. The majority of our researchers are based at Magee campus in Derry/Londonderry, the inaugural UK City of Culture (2013).
A significant proportion of our PhD Researchers in recent years have been awarded scholarships from Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
PhD Researchers within Cinematic Arts, Creative Technologies, Drama, Museum and Heritage Studies and Music are are primarily based in state-of-the-art facilities located in the Foyle Arts Building on the Magee campus, recently the subject of a £3m renovation. PhD Researchers can avail of reserved desk space within this building.
Additional technical and performance resources include:
- 2 computer labs, each featuring 25 Apple Intel iMacs (upgraded in 2015 and 2017 respectively) for a range of media and music technology applications: Avid, Adobe Creative Suite, Logic Pro, Max, etc.
- 2 main drama studios and 1 dance/physical theatre studio. The bigger drama studio is a ‘black box’ space, 18m x 6m , and is a fully equipped performance venue with moving truss, a broad range of stage lanterns with 512 DMX Channel Lighting Control and a 16 Channel Sound desk, with an audience capacity of 100 (tiered). The second drama studio is 12m x 6m, also fully equipped, and has a capacity of 50.¯
- 1 colour grading suite for Cinematic Arts.
- 2 recording studios: one ‘traditional’ stereo studio (Genelec monitoring, Quad Core Mac Pro, Logic Pro, Mackie Control, with outboard from TC Electronics, Focusrite, TL Audio, Drawmer; microphones from DPA, Neumann, AKG, Soundfield, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Rode, Sure); one spatial audio studio (monitoring based on KRK speakers and subs).
- Electronic instruments: a vintage EMS Synthi (classic semi-modular from 1971); Patchblocks (modular audio devices), various MIDI controllers.
- A chamber music recital room.
- Our instrument collection includes a harpsichord, chamber organ, and 2 grand pianos.
- 2 3D printers and various physical computing devices (multiple Arduino boards, sensors, etc.)
Campus facilities include an extensive library stock (including a large CD and DVD collection), with well-developed collections of books and electronic resources. The University libraries also have extensive specialist resources, including the TransGender Archive, CAIN (materials relating to the NI Troubles period), and the John Hewitt Collection, amongst others. The campus is also a train or bus journey from the Linenhall Archives and PRONI in Belfast, and the National Library and National Archives in Dublin, and PhD Researchers are able to avail of the SCONUL library access scheme to gain access to other UK and Irish research libraries.
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
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.
Ulster has a very relaxed feel and atmosphere
David Lyttle - PhD in MusicologyWatch Video
I applied for the PhD after completing Undergraduate and Masters Degrees in Design at Ulster, specialising in filmmaking concerned with issues of mental health and suicide prevention. The final PhD film, JACK (www.jackthemovie.co.uk) aims to translate the protective principles of the Papageno Effect from Psychology and Suicidology into Filmmaking practice by creating a more constructive depiction of a character struggling with their mental wellbeing and suicidal ideation.I am most proud of successfully completing the PhD and defending the project in the final Viva. My fondest memories include presenting my work at the International Association of Suicide Prevention World Congress in 2019 and screening JACK at various Mental Health Film Festivals. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be to be prepared for some challenging days ahead and not to let them get you down. I could not have got through this process without the
John Deery - PhD in Music, Drama, Dance, Film and Screen Studies
I am a visual artist and researcher with emphasis on performative art and interdisciplinary practice. Before applying for the practice-based PhD I had studied Philosophy of Science and Fine arts. My research concerned immersive performative installations and focused on the psychophysical effects of artistic creation to the participants.My proudest moment was when I managed to identify the right supervisory team to support my project. My favourite memory was when I was awarded a doctoral grant in order to participate to Psi conference in Canada. I’ll never forget my first year's struggle to define my subject! I couldn’t have got through without the moral support of my family and my passion for the art. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD I would advise myself to break down into steps this whole project and feed constantly my motivation with a balanced lifestyle.
Eleni Kolliopoulou - PhD in Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies