PhD Research: application processes and topics
PhD research can be pursued in the following individual subject areas: Cinematic Arts (film/moving image practice and film and screen studies), Drama, Heritage and Museum Studies and Music.
Our PhD programme
Following significant growth over the last 10 years, we now host approximately 25 PhD students from across Europe, the Americas and Asia. We are also a partner in the UK AHRC–funded Northern Bridge Consortium, in addition to running our own annual scholarship competition (deadlines generally in January/February each year).
Why undertake PhD research with us
In the 2019 Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES), we were commended for our vibrant research community and received the highest placing in Northern Ireland. Ulster University came in the top three in the UK for research culture and in the top ten overall.
Areas of PhD research
We invite students to undertake PhD research in the following subject areas:
It may also be possible for you to undertake an interdisciplinary combination with another subject area. Please make contact to discuss whether this might work for your proposed project.
Applicants are encouraged to identify and contact potential supervisors in good time to discuss draft research proposals.
Who to contact
Please review our list of staff researchers in Music, Drama, Performing Arts, Film and Screen and Heritage, or contact our Research Director, Brian Bridges.
General Application Process
Creative practice applications
For candidates whose project involves creative practice, please include relevant examples of practice as links to websites, streaming sites or online file hosting as part of your CV or personal statement.
Get in touch before applying
There are a variety of PhD models involving creative practice and varying lengths of dissertation relative to the weighting of your creative practice. You can consult our student handbook to find out more and discuss this with you potential supervisor.
Ulster University Scholarship Competition
Our main scholarship competition (for the Department for the Economy Studentship and the Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship) generally opens in early/mid-December of each year, with a closing date in February. See further details of terms and conditions for UK/EU researchers and 'international', i.e. non-UK and non-EU researchers.
Full details will be provided on the Doctoral College site under 'funded PhD opportunities'. Search for 'Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies', which includes Heritage/Museum Studies.
In advance of applications, candidates should make contact with potential supervisors.
Following application, application materials will be reviewed and shortlisted by subject representatives, after which shortlisted candidates may be invited for interview by a panel comprising a subject specialist, an external representative (from another subject within the unit), and a Chair (generally, the Research Director of the unit), whose role is to ensure consistency in the process.
All candidates will have their interview outcome communicated to them by the Doctoral College.
Northern Bridge Scholarship Competition
We are a part of this consortium, along with
- Durham University
- Newcastle University
- Northumbria University
- Queen’s University Belfast
- Sunderland University
- Teesside University
The consortium offers up to 67 fully funded studentships per year to outstanding postgraduate researchers across the full range of Arts and Humanities subjects, including Creative Practice disciplines.
Prospective applicants should discuss their interest with relevant potential supervisors at an early stage, as the application is reviewed entirely by written proposal and associated documentation.
Stage one of your application is through Ulster University's standard internal route, and if successful, it may be nominated for review by the Northern Bridge consortium.
Subjects and Topics
Film and Screen/Cinematic Arts
Cinematic Arts at Ulster University is a new and vibrant area of research that combines theory and practice of moving image arts in the new digital media age. Applicants can propose practice-based research topics, cinema studies related research questions or focus on the uses of alternative media practices that involve moving image.
Proposals are welcomed in a wide range of areas relating to staff research interests. Example topics which align with staff interests are listed below.
- Contemporary Filmmaking Practice
- Modern and Contemporary Cinema
- Alternative, Experimental and Resistance Media
- Horror: Theory, Practices and Cultures
Research interests in Drama focus collectively on performance in a post-conflict environment, particularly applied performance, and gender, conflict and performance; methodologies of theatre practice, and Irish drama. Individual specialisms are indicated below, but recent staff research projects include: Theatre for Young Audiences; Rape and Performance; Applied Theatre and Post-Conflict Societies; Theatre and Ritual; Storytelling.
Applications for practice-based research are especially welcome, as are interdisciplinary projects.
Current and most recent research theses supervised in Drama:
- Interactive online dramaturgy / Digital Storytelling and Border Areas;
- Storytelling and Conflict in Contemporary Northern Ireland;
- Community theatre in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement;
- Actor training in Ireland;
- Liminal space on the contemporary Northern Irish stage;
- Working class theatre in Ulster;
- The role of the dramaturg in new writing in contemporary British theatre;
- Theatre and Children’s Rights in Northern Ireland;
- Site-Specific Performance and Community Performance in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland
Heritage and Museum Studies
The heritage and museum studies subject at Ulster University has been established since 2001 and has maintained a vibrant research culture ever since. Current research focuses around the theme Engaging the Past, which considers issues of memory, interpretation, representation, identity and political context of notions of heritage. We take an interdisciplinary approach and, depending on the research topic, the supervisory team is drawn from individuals with specialisms in museum and heritage studies, performance, sociology, policy studies, cultural geography, education, art and design, and history.
We support researchers in developing their academic interests in teaching and publication. PhD researchers with professional experience of the heritage, museums or arts sector have opportunity to run seminars on the Master’s courses in heritage and museum studies at Ulster.
Current and most recent research theses supervised in this area include:
- Material culture
- Collections interpretation and collection history
- Conflict testimony in museum interpretation
- Interculturalism and the museum
- Museums and the everyday
- Digital heritage interpretation
- Dark Tourism
Music at Ulster is firmly committed to creative practice as an integral part of its research activity.
Particular areas of staff specialism at Ulster include music composition, jazz and improvised music, music technology and electroacoustic composition, sound installation practices, music and the visual, and microtonality. We are also extensively engaged in interdisciplinary research in collaboration with colleagues in drama, film and heritage/museum studies, amongst others. You are invited to review the research profiles of our various staff, and to contact those whose interests match your own.
Testimonials from our students
I am a visual artist and researcher with emphasis on performative art and interdisciplinary practice. Before applying for the practice-based PhD I had studied Philosophy of Science and Fine arts. My research concerned immersive performative installations and focused on the psychophysical effects of artistic creation to the participants.
My proudest moment was when I managed to identify the right supervisory team to support my project.
My favourite memory was when I was awarded a doctoral grant in order to participate in the PSI conference in Canada.
I’ll never forget my first year's struggle to define my subject! I couldn’t have got through without the moral support of my family and my passion for the art. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD I would advise myself to break down into steps this whole project and feed constantly my motivation with a balanced lifestyle.
Eleni Kolliopoulou - PhD (2020) in Drama/Performance Studies, jointly supervised with Art and Design
This uniquely flexible programme allowed me to explore cross-disciplinary interests in music technology within the context of more traditional areas of music performance, and to engage with academic research at the highest level.
This was a unique opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in academia throughout the island of Ireland, and to attend a series of exciting research conferences across Europe. I completed and successfully defended my doctoral thesis in 2012.
The same year I acquired an academic position in the United States. I am now a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Music and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology in the greater NYC area. I work with exceptional industry and academic faculty that have collaborated with the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Alicia Keys. I now engage in academic research with graduates from Ivy League institutions on the door-step of the greatest city in the world.
To put it simply, I’m in my dream job, and I have the postgraduate programmes in Music at Ulster University to thank for it.
Richard Graham - PhD (2012) in Music