The School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences has a vibrant and multi-disciplinary research environment, which is home to a wide range of research projects that tackle important questions in the social sciences. We have an excellent international reputation for producing high quality research which has global impact.   Our work is centred around three key themes: persistent and emerging socio-economic challenges, policy and practice in divided societies, and national global social justice.

If you are interested in joining our School as a PhD candidate, you can be confident that you’ll be joining a community of committed researchers, who offer dedicated and tailored supervision.  You will be fully integrated into the research environment within the school and join a lively research student community.

The School has three pathways for applicants: we assess applications for self-funded study all year round; we invite applicants to apply to the University’s annual competition for doctoral scholarships; and we participate in the Northern Ireland and North-East Doctoral Training Partnership of the Economic and Social Research Council.

For more information on each of these pathways, and how to prepare an application, including how to draft a research proposal, please visit our School’s webpage that describes the variety of PhD Opportunities.


Politics and Public Policy at Ulster University

The entire staff of Politics and International Studies are active researchers whose work is internationally recognized, both within academia, third sector organizations and civic society. Their work engages with pressing issues impacting transitional societies and intersects with questions of socio-economic inequities, asymmetries of voice and access to political processes and issues with (de)democratization, peace building and political violence. We aim to cultivate an intellectually rich and stimulating environment to encourage our students to push the boundaries of disciplinary understandings.

Some of our core areas of interest relate to:

- Identity politics: nationalist studies, gender politics, youth politics

- Memory politics: Commemoration and dealing with the past in societies transitioning from conflict

- Comparative politics: democracy and political parties in Africa, Europe and Latin America

- Political violence and terrorism studies

- Urban politics: political and social impacts of urban planning and regeneration

- Social class, gender and the politics of inequality

- Public Policy and public administration

- Language policy

We welcome interest from prospective PhD candidates in any of these areas.


Recent and Select Publications

Researchers in Politics and International Studies continue to publish books with prestigious publishing houses including Manchester University Press; Oxford University Press; Palgrave; Routledge among others.

Our work has been published in the discipline’s top peer-reviewed journals, including Political Studies; the British Journal of Politics and International Relations; Democratization; European Union Politics; African Affairs; Politics; Terrorism & Political Violence; Men and Masculinities.

Recent publications include:

Ashe, F. (2019) 'Sexuality and Gender Identity in Transitional Societies: Peacebuilding and Counterhegemonic Politics', International Journal of Transitional Justice, 13, (3) 119-140.

Ashe, F. (2019) Gender, Nationalism and Conflict Transformation: New Themes and Old Problems in Northern Ireland Politics (London: Routledge).

Braniff, M., Tonge, J., Whiting, S., McAuley, J. and Hennessey, T. (2019) The Ulster Unionist Party: Country before Party?, Oxford University Press

Tonge, J., Braniff, M., Hennessey, T., McAuley, J. and Whiting, M. (2014), The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power. Oxford University Press.

Brown, K and Grant A. (2016), A Lens Over Conflicted Memory: Surveying ‘Troubles’ Commemoration in Northern Ireland, Irish Political Studies. 31, 1:. 139-162

Brown (2019) Political commemoration and peacebuilding in ethno-national settings: the risk and utility of partisan memory, Peacebuilding, 7:1, 51-70,

Gazzola, M., Templin, T. and Wickstrom, B. A. (2018) Language Policy and Linguistic Justice: Economic, Philosophical and Sociolinguistic Approaches, Springer.

Gazzola M.,Templin T., Mcentee-Atalianis L.'.. (2019). ‘Measuring diversity in multilingual communication’. Social Indicators Research.pp 1-22

Kelly, G. (2020) 'Researching Over-Researched Societies' in Mac Ginty, R., Brett, R. & Vogel, B. (Eds), The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork,. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kelly, G. (2020). 'Reconciliation and Peacebuilding' in Richmond, O.P. and  Visoka, G.  (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Peacebuilding, Statebuilding, and Peace Formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McGrattan, C. (2016) The Politics of Trauma and Peace-Building: Lessons from Northern Ireland, Routledge,

McGrattan, C. and Williams, S. (2017) 'Devolution and identity: Multidirectionality in ‘Welshness’ and ‘Northern Irishness’, Regional & Federal Studies, Vol. 26(4), pp. 465-482.

Mac Giollabhuí, S. (2019) “How does an opposition party become successful in a dominant party system? The case of South Africa”, African Affairs, Vol. 117, No. 470.

Mac Giollabhuí, S. (2018) “Battleground: Candidate Selection and Violence in Africa’s Dominant Political Parties” in Democratization. 25, No. 6.

O’Connor, K. (2014) Public administration in contested societies; Palgrave

O’Connor K, Knox C, Janenova S. (2019) Bureaucrats, Authoritarianism, and Role Conceptions. Review of Public Personnel Administration. November doi:10.1177/0734371X19888009

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.