About our Art and Design Research

We are a diverse group of research staff and a vibrant PhD research community of around 45 researchers.


We are diverse group of researchers working across a broad spectrum of art & design enquiry.

Collectively we interrogate a broad spectrum of creative inquiry, through theoretical and applied research with impactful knowledge exchange.

We nurture individual exploration, intradisciplinary investigation across subject thematic groups and interdisciplinary collaboration with research units across the university.

Ulster’s Art & Design research is ranked 3rd in the UK for its world-leading 4* research and joint 7th for overall GPA.

We enjoy a vibrant research environment recognised as 100% internationally excellent and world leading with 80% at 4* and 20% at 3* (REF, 2014).

The Belfast School of Art Research Unit has a long-standing relationship and influence on the regional creative community.

Our outputs are among the most diverse in the university ranging from Journals, conference proceedings and books (monograph and photobooks) to artefacts, performances, exhibitions, or designs, patents and software.

These world leading outcomes occupy many of the world's leading collections and archives (Tate, New York Met, Imperial War Museum) or have influenced the development of world-leading industry and innovation.

Thematic groups

While our research unit is a single coherent unit often collaborating, our research aligns with the following thematic groups responding to contemporary issues and challenges.

  • Art, Conflict and Society

    Working with community groups, government, those affected by the troubles, museums and other organisations applying art practice to conflict situations nationally and internationally.

  • Art, Design & Health

    Working with HSC Innovations, C-TRIC, MOIC, NI pain society, NI Pain forum, Verses Arthritis and other organisations, stimulating or challenging topical debate or driving innovative solutions for better healthcare or personal wellbeing.

  • Arts, Space and Place

    Engaging with the creative community in topics interrogating historic, environmental, geographic, cultural identity and sustainability issues.

  • Creative Industries

    Design-led investigation engaging with industry bodies, the public and private sector leading the interdisciplinary Research Knowledge Exchange activities with the creative sector.

Our Impact

Over 70% of our research impact was peer reviewed to be 'outstanding' influencing culture, society and the economy (REF, 2014). In Research Knowledge Exchange, Art & Design have contributed to Ulster’s recognition as a leader in excellence, with 30% of our KTP programmes graded ‘outstanding’ compared to the national benchmark of 21% (Innovate UK, 2019).

Our Staff

Our staff and their research have been recognised internationally, for instance, the winning public sculpture commission for PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (2018), a finalist at the THELMA’s Knowledge Exchange initiative of the year (2018), two MAC international finalists (2014, 2018) and the Tate Modern acquisition of Martin Parr’s 12,000 Photobook collection (2017).

Spin Out Companies

Art & Design have two spin out companies including Tactility Factory and HUMAIN and our current interdisciplinary research with Computing & Intelligent systems expands the innovations and workforce of the Biomedical Engineering spin out company Axial3D. Our staff work closely with the Artistic community, many working within or contributing to the studio culture environment.

Collaboration/Partners

Beyond the activity outlined in the thematic groups, staff representation includes peer review committees (AHRC), REF subject panels (REF2014, REF2021) and national ethics committees (OREC NI). Collaborative research agreements are in place with NMNI and as a member of the Northern Bridge Consortium for PhD research, our research communities converge.

We actively engage with the CHEAD on national research issues. We nurture and promote art practice through sustained engagement for example with Bbeyond and widening access of Art through ‘Art Unwrapped’ with Belfast City Council and National Museums NI.

Art & Design staff are co-investigators on the AHRC Creative Cluster, Future Screens NI engaging with diverse industry partners across film and broadcast, animation, games and immersive technologies. With several other staff securing competitive funds for Creative Industry projects from Future Screens NI.

PhD Research

We guide a vibrant research community of around 45 PhD researchers at the Belfast Campus, who are part of our University wide Doctoral College.

We are a partner on the AHRC funded Northern Bridge Consortium awarding national PhD scholarships, extending our capacity.

In PRES2019 Art & Design performed above the sector in all measures of the survey ranging from 3.4% to 20.2% better performance. Ulster are currently 8th in the University level league tables.

Our PhD researchers publish their own Journal, ‘Intersections’.