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The school supports doctoral research in four core areas. Further information is available in Ulster's PhD Prospectus.

Criminology, Public Policy, Social Policy and Social Work

Criminology, Public Policy, Social Policy and Social Work (CPSS) research at Ulster 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.

CPSS research also 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.

CPSS 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 rigorously build evidence based, conceptually rich understandings of the complex processes that shape institutional reform, governance and service delivery. We embrace interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research that harnesses diverse tools and approaches to enhance field-specific challenges.


The School of Education at Ulster University has an established tradition of innovative development and research and offers supervision within a diverse range of research areas. The research strategy of the School of Education focuses on Education in Society.

Our research agenda is based around the following three core themes:

  1. Education and Conflict
  2. Children, Young People and Adults: Educating for Inclusion
  3. Teacher Education and Pedagogical Practice.

Education and Conflict is long standing research theme within the School. It is led by the UNESCO Chair, Professor Alan Smith, though his involvement with a number of international organisations, including UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and DFID. Research work related to building greater social cohesion through education in the Northern Ireland context features strongly with researchers working in the fields of history education, the promotion of good relations through informal education, the use of ICT to foster inter-cultural learning, and using GIS systems to monitor young people’s social movements beyond their own immediate environs, in the context of divided communities.

Proposals which examine the Northern Ireland educational experience in this field are welcomed but so, too, are in-depth or comparative studies based on work in conflicted situations in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Improving outcomes for children, youth and adults has been a research focus in the School over an extended period of time, with an emphasis on Special Educational Needs, inclusive education and social marginalisation.

This work has generated a strong inter-disciplinary profile and strong partnerships have been established across health, welfare, social policy and youth justice domains inside and outside the University. Research proposals in the fields of SEN; all aspects children’s welfare; and access to information, information literacy and inclusion are particularly encouraged.

The Teacher Education and Pedagogical Practice strand focuses on learning and teaching issues which both emanate from, and inform, the School’s teacher education programmes, its TESOL programme, its work in continuing education and its Library and Information Management (LIM) activities.

The School has had a long commitment to researching the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching and learning, encouraging the seamless application of ICT innovation to curriculum and practice. Research in this area includes the creation of learning communities linked through technology at primary, second, and tertiary levels, on-line learning and the creation of e-portfolios to enhance teacher creativity and reflection and the investigation of the potential use of iPad technology in Teacher Education. Research proposals in the fields of teacher education and pedagogical practice; TESOL; and LIM are particularly encouraged.


Linguistics at Ulster University has a strong research focus and a lively research atmosphere. Research students are valued members of the research community and rapidly become part of an active research group. They take part in regular staff-student seminars where current research is presented and debated.

The group regularly organises international conferences and in recent years it has become very active in the development of research on linguistic interfaces and multilingualism.

Work in the linguistics group spans a range of areas in the discipline from syntactic and semantic theory to applied linguistics. Particular strengths are in the areas of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, microvariation, linguistic interfaces, first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, language variation, language change, talk-in-interaction and language policy and planning.

The group also works in investigating experimentally a range of syntactic, semantic or pragmatic phenomena, with different measures and in different types of population; typical adults, children, and individuals with language disorders. While students and staff work on a wide range of languages, some take advantage of the opportunity to work on a selection of interesting local language varieties including Belfast English, Irish English in general, Irish and Ulster Scots.

Another key research area involves the application of discourse and conversation analysis to understand issues of culture, identity, communication and interaction.

Students study in a variety of modes and we welcome applications for PhDs by full-time, parttime and part-time distance study.

Politics and International Studies

Traditionally,  politics and international studies research at Ulster has maintained a strong focus on research in Irish politics and, while that continues, the research portfolio has developed to explore larger questions of identity, ethnic conflict and conflict transformation.

Related areas where members of staff are active researchers and where supervision is available are the politics of the European Union, gender politics, community relations, political parties, peace processes and leadership, memory studies, conservative thought and the politics of constitutional change in the United Kingdom with special reference to England and Englishness.

Politics and International Studies research  is located within the Institute for Research in Social Science which is one of the University’s Research Institutes created to concentrate on the highest quality research. The Institute supports a vibrant research environment through a range of activities. The research environment within the Institute is interdisciplinary and orientated toward producing research that has real life impact. It places a premium on the inclusion and development of research student