The School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences (ASPS) is a substantial multi-disciplinary, cross campus centre of research with members working on a wide range of cutting edge methodological, theoretical, empirical and policy related issues. It is distinguished by its applied, interdisciplinary research that draws on national and international comparative methods, to develop innovative and significant impact-centred work which pushes the disciplinary boundaries and promotes important changes within society.
ASPS has developed an international reputation for:
- Pioneering theoretical ideas that change the way in which policy, governance, criminology and social work are conceptualised.
- Developing cutting-edge research methodologies which produce unique, internationally significant data-sets.
- Designing a range of innovative analytical tools that help reform and guide social practice.
- Disseminating research outputs to a range of stakeholder groups in order to strengthen, and critically reflect upon, policy and practice. ASPS welcomes applicants interested in researching social policy, criminology and justice, politics, policing, prisons, public policy, social work, poverty, language policy, disadvantage, migration and welfare.
The strength and rigour of ASPS’ research has been registered in successive research assessment exercises. In the most recent research assessment exercise, ‘REF 2014’, seventy percent of ASPS’ research has been graded world-leading or internationally excellent, with a 160% increase in world-leading research since the 2008 assessment exercise. ASPS ranks 12th in the UK for outstanding research impact (4*) and 20th for world-leading research (4*).
ASPS distinguishes itself through a long-standing commitment to researching and shaping governance, policy, and practice in divided societies dealing with the legacies of violence and conflict. This focus is being expanded and enriched through strategic diversification into new applied research streams that inquire into, and confront, challenges presented by racism, inequality, economic marginalisation, institutional reform and the crimes of the powerful. Furthermore, the school aims to address blind-spots and lacunas in governance, policy and service delivery which conflict and transition can create, in areas such as gender, disability, ageing, health, criminal justice, and ethnic minorities. These streams are enhanced through transnational research that draws on growing international linkages to better understand how regional and global distributions of power, wealth, infrastructure, resources, and knowledge, impact on governance, policy, and practice on a variety of scales.
The school’s research priorities are supported by a vibrant, aspirational culture that supports scholars to develop and pioneer innovative methodologies, analytical tools, and theoretical concepts that can sensitively and rigorously build evidence based, conceptually rich understandings of the complex processes that shape reform, accountability and service delivery. We embrace interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research that harnesses diverse tools and approaches to enhance our response to field-specific challenges.
The school aims to formulate and execute our research collaboratively, and share our findings through innovative mechanisms that cater to the precise needs of diverse user-group. ASPS has also demonstrated a preparedness, when needed, to confront injustice and significant failures in policy and governance in a robust manner, often with significant effect. This distinctive research agenda is operationalised through five research groups:
- Social Policy
- Criminology and Justice
- Public Policy and Government
- Social Work
- Youth and Community studies
Public Policy and Government
Governance amounts to a system of social coordination established through rule setting and rule observation by policy actors. Public services are delivered in complex governance spaces which frequently involve multiple organisations. In the current era of austerity greater significance has fallen on the use of performance management as a tool for disciplining the actions public services professionals. Professional judgement competes with managerialism in the shaping and delivery of services. The emergence of a ‘compliance’ culture is characterising professional working life in key public services. A tension exists between performance measured by internal organisational concepts of efficiency and external recognition of social impact.
Key research areas of interest include:
- Governance and performance in health services
- Control of professionals including doctors
- Governance and performance in social services
- Governance, performance and oversight over the police
- Language policy
- Political parties and democracy
- Conflict resolution
- Government in conflict and post-conflict situations
- Trauma and peace building
- Policy implementation
- Understanding institutions in the contemporary delivery of public services
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.
Additional information for International applicants may be found here.
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.
Full details on the requirements for both home and overseas applicants can be found here.
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. 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, is available here.
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 started at Ulster Uni in 2011, graduating in 2015 with first class honours in Criminology and Criminal Justice - the entire Criminology faculty were so supportive, I knew then I wanted to pursue further study. I obtained my Masters degree in Violence, Terrorism and Security from Queen's University Belfast in 2016 before returning to Ulster to pursue my PhD.My favourite part of my PhD was travelling to the USA and Southeast Asia for fieldwork, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to pursue exciting research on an international scale. I'm so proud to have completed my PhD at Ulster, I couldn't have got through it without the unwavering support of my family, my supervisors and fellow PhDer Jessica McElhone - here's to graduating together in 2021!
Gabrielle Nugent-Stephens - PhD in Social Policy and Social Work