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PhD Opportunities within Research on Property and Planning

Below is a list of links for PhD opportunities available for the Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP).

Other PhD opportunities outside of the main competition are advertised on the University’s website here.

  1. University Campus Developments as Catalysts for Urban Regeneration
  2. Changing Coastlines, Seaside Regeneration and Marine Planning
  3. Real Estate Valuation and Property Taxation
  4. Resilient Futures: Planning and Regeneration for Land, People and Place
  5. Infrastructure Investment Solutions for Modern Dynamic Cities
  6. Urban Vulnerability: Improving the Security and Resilience of Cities
  7. Space, Culture and Youth: Design and Policy Guidance

Theme One

Theme Title

University Campus Developments as Catalysts for Urban Regeneration

Named Supervisors

Prof Alastair Adair, Prof Jim Berry

Theme Description

The role of Universities as generators of economic activity and drivers of local economic development has been researched by Universities UK. The specific role of university new campus developments as catalysts for urban regeneration has not received such attention. The objective of this research is to explore the framing of such campus developments in the wider city governance and institutional land and property framework and mechanisms to determine elements of success as effective urban regenerators.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

This is primarily a desk based and case study focused project involving studies/potential travel of subject developments within UK, Europe and USA.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

An appropriate degree in subjects related to Real Estate, Town Planning, Business, Economics and Finance.

Skills required will relate to understanding city governance, knowledge of institutional economics, business activity, quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

Transferrable skills related to Real Estate/Business/City  Governance/Economics/Finance. The candidate will have access to leading decision makers in city governance, financiers, urban regeneration, town planning and business activity.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

Knowledge of university new campus development across UK, Europe and USA enabling the candidate to work in city regeneration and university estate development activity.


Theme Two

Theme Title

Changing Coastlines, Seaside Regeneration and Marine Planning

Named Supervisors

Dr Linda McElduff, Dr Heather Ritchie, Mr Gavan Rafferty, Dr Neale Blair

Theme Description

Coastal communities across the world face a range of structural and locational challenges, including changing environmental parameters which have exacerbated the risk of specific coastal hazards (e.g. coastal erosion and flooding). Many localities are seeking to increase their adaptability to such resources, skills and knowledge in novel ways to bring about new sources of employment, renewed sense of identity and resilience to future change. At the same time, the management and regulation of marine and coastal resources, activities and development is evolving from a fragmented and sectoral system to a more strategic and integrated process facilitated by a range of institutional, legal and policy frameworks. In particular, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has emerged as an instrument for managing a sustainable marine resource. A key challenge for MSP is to introduce a transparent, evidence-based governance structure for the various communities of interest and develop novel ways of supporting communities of place. Specific questions arise relating to the integration of the different sectors; how best to conceptualise an inclusive model of decision making and governance; and how to plan for, and regenerate, declining coastal communities.

This theme invites submissions relating to any of the key areas referred to above, including coastal regeneration, resilience and management, and marine spatial planning, from an island of Ireland or international perspective.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

Proposals based on the above mentioned themes will complement current research undertaken by the existing postgraduate planning research cluster in the expanding fields of spatial planning, community planning, coastal regeneration and marine spatial planning. Doctoral research projects will be mainly desk based, focusing on the review of contemporary legislative, policy and academic literature, and a review of emerging practice. Empirical research data will likely be collected through a variety of means, such as interviews with stake holders and practitioners.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

Critical thinking; academic writing; research methods; organisation and information management; creativity and innovation.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

Research in these areas will be interdisciplinary in nature. Candidates will have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues outside of the main planning research cluster. From the research, candidates will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Independent Research and Learning
  • Project management and organisational skills
  • Enhanced oral communication skills
  • Academic writing skills

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

Candidates will be expected to present their research at national and international scholarly conferences at various stages throughout the programme of study. In addition, candidates will publish their work in peer reviewed journals during their enrolment as a doctoral student at Ulster University; papers will focus initially on concept development moving to and then disseminate empirical findings. Furthermore, candidates will become part of the Planning research cluster, which facilitates peer-to-peer support. These dissemination activities will enable networking and access to decision makers, policy makers, and potentially provide further avenues for further employment and research.


Theme Three

Theme Title

Real Estate Value and Property Taxation

Named Supervisors

Dr Jasmine Lay-Cheng Lim and Dr Lesley Hemphill

Theme Description

This theme is designed to attract students who have an interest in real estate valuation and property taxation, how it is regulated, administrated and undertaken across and within countries. The type of research areas which prospective students may have an interest in include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Local government finance
  • Design of real estate tax system, tax base and tax levels
  • Public administration, public finance and tax structure in China
  • Different types of tax autonomy may have on the sizes of local public sectors
  • Automated Valuation Models for property taxation purposes
  • Valuation of property assets in established or emerging markets
  • Real estate regulation, ethics and education
  • Green property valuation
  • Capturing carbon and energy efficiency within property valuation
  • Impact of property data and market transparency on valuation
  • Risk and uncertainty in real estate investment
  • Uncertainty and risk management in real estate valuation

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

Research students would become part of a wider research community within the School of the Built Environment which total over 80 PhD students across a number of property, planning, energy, transport, housing and construction related disciplines. Each student will gain access to computer facilities and online resources covering the top real estate related journals and all the key searchable databases. Students will also have the opportunity to undertake structured research training during their 3 years of study which is specifically tailored to their area of interest and enables the development of research skills linked to their PhD topic.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

  • A minimum of 2:1 degree in a cognate built environment discipline such as real estate, housing, planning, construction etc. or in an allied discipline such as business studies, geography, economics, finance, management, accounting etc. (others considered on a case by case basis).
  • IELTS minimum score of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component.
  • Students would be expected to have good written and oral communication skills, the ability to work independently and appropriate analytical skills to enable in-depth appraisal of the topic area.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

PhD candidates will benefit from the following transferrable skills:

  • High level of oral and written communication skills
  • Knowledge and appreciation of computer software packages such as SPSS, NVivo, Excel, Argus
  • In-depth understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Inability to construct and peer review academic journal papers
  • Project management and time management skills
  • Appreciation of funding opportunities and budget management.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

  • Students would be encouraged to engage with professional body as well as industry experts in leading real estate advisory, investment and development firms.
  • Students would be encouraged to network and present their findings at a range of real estate conferences such as ERES, ARES, ASRES, PRRES, where they can interact with other researchers, academics and the wider research community.
  • Students are also encouraged to engage with Ulster University Visiting Professors, other academics and researchers.

Theme Four

Theme Title

Resilient Futures: Planning and Regeneration for Land, People and Place

Named Supervisors

Dr Neale Blair; Prof Erwin van der Krabben; Dr Linda McElduff; Mr Gavan Rafferty; Dr Heather Ritchie

Theme Description

Planning as an instrument of spatial governance is a critical component for enabling resilient futures. This is expressed in various ways, for example through the service delivery model central to community planning in the devolved UK context, to organisation of the urban fabric through design of the public realm.

With the ambition of developing and promoting good practice in governance, the focus of your project will be in one of the following areas of contemporary planning and regeneration practice:

  • Spatial planning interventions for enhancing community health and well-being
  • Leadership in local government organisation and delivery of services
  • Collaborative planning in inter- and intra-jurisdictional contexts
  • 3D visualisation of development proposals for stakeholder engagement
  • Land reform as a vehicle for stimulating urban renewal and regeneration

Resilience is predicated on culture, capacity and competence in implementing practice and achieving policy goals. It is therefore expected that projects in the areas outlined above will contribute to knowledge through the critical examination of existing tools, policies and processes to identify and evaluate innovative interventions that are applicable to contemporary practice in the UK and international context.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

Proposals based on the above mentioned themes will complement current research undertaking by the existing postgraduate planning research cluster in the expanding fields of spatial planning, community planning, coastal regeneration and marine spatial planning. Doctoral research projects will be mainly desk based, focusing on the review of contemporary legislative, policy and academic literature, and a review of emerging practice. Empirical research data will likely be collected through a variety of means, such as interviews with stakeholders and practitioners.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

Critical thinking; academic writing; research methods; organisation and information managements; creativity and innovation; knowing current work in the field.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

Research in these areas will be interdisciplinary in nature. Candidates will have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues outside the main planning research cluster. From the research, candidates will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • critical thinking
  • independent research and learning
  • project management and organisational skills
  • project management and organisational skills
  • enhanced oral communication skills
  • academic writing skills

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

Candidates will be expected to present their research at national and international scholarly conferences at various stages throughout the programme of study. In addition, candidates will publish their work in peer reviewed journals during their enrolment as a doctoral student at Ulster University; papers will focus initially on concept development moving to and then disseminate empirical findings. Furthermore, candidates will become part of the Planning research cluster, which facilitates peer-to-peer support. These dissemination activities will enable networking and access to decision makers, policy makers, and potentially provide further avenues for further employment and research.


Theme Five

Theme Title

Infrastructure Investment Solutions for Modern Dynamic Cities

Named Supervisors

Prof Martin Haran, Dr Peadar Davis, Dr Michael McCord

Theme Description

As modern dynamic cities around the world assume greater powers of governance allied with increased levels of fiscal autonomy there is a need to develop innovative investment and financial solutions to facilitate the delivery of essential infrastructure projects which not only enable economic competitiveness but which also serve to meet the needs and expectations of their existing citizens.

New financial regulatory frameworks introduced in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis has extenuated the need to attract new sources and forms of investment and to develop city-level infrastructure investment models which more effectively align the investment time horizons and risk-return profiles of investors relative to infrastructure project opportunities. This research project will examine the idiosyncrasies of the infrastructure challenge pertaining to modern dynamic cities and assess the viability and transferability (between different infrastructure types and across jurisdictions) of innovative infrastructure investment vehicles and fiscal measures which could be implemented to more effectively redress the infrastructure challenge. The research will serve to address a number of questions pertaining to the financing of furuter infrastructure provision at city-level including:

  • How can the scale and multi-faceted nature of the infrastructure challenge facing modern cities be more effectively 'broken-down' and 'communicated' to prospective investors in order to align project opportunities and the associated risks with investor expectations?
  • What are the principal barriers which serve to prevent private sector investment in city-level infrastructure investment vehicles take and who will be the principal funders of infrastructure in the next economic cycle?
  • Which policy measures or fiscal frameworks might cities introduce in order to continue to develop the quality of their infrastructure provision?
  • How can cities effectively harness infrastructure investment in order to stimulate greater societal and economic uplift?

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

The project will be principally a desk-based study, but will require the candidate to engage with key stakeholder groupings including data providers, policy makers and investors in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the infrastructure investment challenge facing cities within an increasingly competitive economic environment. The study will include an exploration of innovative funding solutions in the form of investment models/vehicles and fiscal mechanisms and structures.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

No specific degree discipline, however the candidate will require a high degree of numeracy and analytical capacity. An appreciation of economic and legal concepts will be extremely advantageous, as would a background in business, real estate or infrastructure. The research is likely to involve quantitative analysis, including financial and statistical analysis and a range of qualitiative analysis. As such, research experience utilising a range of analytic approaches would be very useful.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The PhD programme will allow the student to develop inter-disciplinary skills. Infrastructure investment by its nature is multi-disciplinary therefore the student will engage extensively with policy makers, investors, financiers as well as infrastructure providers and operators throughout the programme. The student will develop a series of transferrable and highly desirable analytical and modelling skill sets as well as improved communication and project management competencies.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

The proposed supervisory team have an established research network within the topic area including a number of world renowned academics and practitioners. This network affords the prospective researcher access to cutting edge insight as well as first hand perspectives pertaining to the topic area as well as affording significant scope to collate and gather key datasets which will serve as a key pillar of the research. It would be expected that the PhD student attend recognised international conferences within the field such as (PPRES, MENARES, ERES, ARES), FIG, IPTI and other appropriate events.


Theme Six

Theme Title

Urban Vulnerability: Improving the Security and Resilience of Cities

Named Supervisors

Prof Martin Haran, Dr Peadar Davis, Dr Michael McCord

Theme Description

The security and resilience of cities to both natural and manmade disasters/atrocities has assumed increased prominence over the course of the last decade. The pronounced increase in both the intensity and frequency of natural disasters has had profound implications on the functional capacity of cities and exposed the failings of conventional top-down 'command and control' type responses. Meanwhile, high-profile recent terror attacks across a number of European cities has served to graphically illustrate the 'vulnerabilitiy' of cities and evoked a new sense of 'fear' within urban communities. As many European cities seek to introduce US inspired 'monitoring' solutions including sensor technologies and audio detection systems the key resource base of any city - its residents continue to be regarding as 'peripheral' with the security and resilience challenge.

Paradoxically, a great deal of what makes a city resilient is invisible - feedback loops that continuously update and communicate network weaknesses, monitor social cohesion and co-operation in and among neighbourhoods are central to the resilience framework. The 'value proposition' of such frameworks are nonetheless highly dependent upon the buy-in and 'empowerment' of citizens. This thesis will evaluate the role of citizens in improving the resilience of their cities as well as detailing how municipalities can more effectively engage and empower communities in order to enhance detection capacity and responsiveness relative to the threats and challenges which impinge upon modern cities.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

The project will be principally a desk-based study, but will require the candidate to engage with key stakeholder groupings including policy makers, lay enforcement agencies and community representatives/leaders in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the resilience challenge facing cities within an increasingly complex and multi-faceted landscape.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

No specific degree discipline, however the candidate will be required to undertake empirical research including both focus groups and interviews consequentially the ability to critically evaluate both quantitative and qualitative insights would be advantageous. An appreciation of legal concepts pertaining to urban security would be desirable, as would a background in business continuity planning, urban security of disaster recovery and reconstruction.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The PhD programme will allow the student to develop their interdisciplinary skills. The subject of urban security and resilience is by nature multi-disciplainary therefore the student will develop a proficient analytical and modelling skills, improved communication strategies and project management competencies.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

The proposed supervisory team have an established research network within the topic area predicted on a highly acclaimed portfolio of European Commissioned projects. This affords the researcher exposure to practical as well as theoretical understanding of the topic as well as permitting access to world-leading academics and practitioners. This network affords the prospective researcher access to cutting edge insights as well as affording significant scope to collate and gather key datasets which will serve as a key pillar of the research. It would be expected that the PhD student attend recognised international conferences within the field and other appropriate events pertaining to the security and resilience of cities.


Theme Seven

Theme Title

Space, Culture and Youth: Design and Policy Guidance

Named Supervisors

Dr Karen Davison, Dr Jenny Russell and Dr Michaela Keenan

Theme Description

The study of youth has become a popular theme within academic discussions as youth opinion on a variety of societal matters becomes more significant. However, youth interaction, perception and influence of space is very much an under researched area within the Built Environment. Design guidance for Architects, Policy Makers and Planners in relation to youth needs and aspirations is certainly lacking.

This area of study aims to explore the influence of architectural space and environment on youth identity and behaviour, with a view to better understanding the needs of youth at both a design and policy level, particularly within a contested space such as Northern Ireland. The study will focus on youth interaction with space in an attempt to understand their use of particular spaces, needs and values within certain spaces.

The PhD will consist of potentially four linked studies spanning across a variety of spaces set within a local, national and international context.

  • Youth perception and behaviour within sacred space
  • Youth perception and behaviour within disused space
  • Youth perception and behaviour within formal buildings such as school and hospitals.
  • Youth perception and behaviour within neighbourhoods.

It is hoped that this study will begin to answer key questions such as:

  • How do these spaces impact on youth identity?
  • How do youth behave within certain spaces?
  • What do youth need from spaces?
  • How can these be addressed at a Design and Policy level?

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

The school of the Built Environment over many years has developed a rich and supportive environment for research students both at PhD and postdoctoral level. This supportive environment hosts approximately 80 students at any time who span a vast array of disciplines and research topics.

Within the research environment for this qualitative study the student would gain access to the necessary computer facilities and online resources to allow them to successfully achieve the doctoral study. These would also be supplemented by an exceptional suite of research training from the Doctoral College and ongoing, proactive and positive support from the research supervisors.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

  • A minimum of 2:1 degree in a cognate built environment discipline such as Architecture, Social Policy, Housing and Planning. Other disciplines would be considered on a case by case basis.
  • IELTS minimum score of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component.
  • Students would be expected to have good written and oral communication skills, the ability to work independently and appropriate analytical skills to enable in-depth appraisal of the topic area.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

This research will span across a number of disciplines to include Architecture, Social Policy, Planning and Psychology.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

Students would be encouraged to present their findings and to avail of networking opportunities at a range of related conferences, where they can interact with other researchers, academics and the wider research community.