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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.

Current and recent PhD projects can be found here.

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 (see also list under subject area/below), or contact our Postgraduate Tutor (Director of PhD Studies), Dr Adam Melvin for suggestions on who to contact

More information on PhD funding and submitting proposals is available from the Doctoral College pages

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

You should discuss your proposal with the subject experts in our team (see list by subject, below) or contact our Postgraduate Tutor (Director of PhD Studies), Dr Adam Melvin.

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.


Subjects and Topics

  • Film and Screen (incl. Interactive) and Cinematic Arts

    Film and Screen 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
    • Virtual production


    • Dr Laura Aguiar - film festival studies, archival studies, socially-engaged filmmaking practices
    • Dr Murat Akser -  Third Cinema, social media and protest, contemporary filmmaking practice, film festival studies
    • Dr Lee Cadieux  -  filmmaking practice and visual effects; games
    • Dr Darryl Charles - games and interactive media
    • Dr Victoria McCollum - horror - theories, practices and cultures
    • Dr Gerard Gibson - horror theory and visual effects
    • Prof. Declan Keeney - virtual production and immersive media
    • Dr Michael McKnight  - immersive media (incl. audio)
    • Prof. Paul Moore (Future Screens NI) has interests in the creative economy, as well as practices in sound and audiovisual practices
    • See also Music, below, for more staff with research interests in audiovisual practices and cultures.
  • Drama

    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


    • Dr Giuliano Campo - Grotowski, ritual theatre, actor training (incl. practice-as-research)
    • Dr Lisa Fitzpatrik - Gender and violence in performance, post-conflict arts, Irish (incl. Northern Irish) Theatre
    • Dr Jen Goddard - Applied theatre, participatory practices, gender and violence in performance (practice-as-research)
    • Prof. Tom Maguire (Head of School: Arts and Humanities) - Theatre for Young Audiences, Irish (incl. Northern Irish) Theatre
  • 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

    Staff contact: Prof. Elizabeth Crooke

  • Music

    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.


    • Dr Brian Bridges -  electronic/electroacoustic music composition, music/arts technology, sound studies
    • Dr Rob Casey - composition/improvisation/open form practices
    • Dr Adam Melvin - composition (incl. mixed-media installation practices), soundtrack studies/music and visual culture
    • Prof. Brian Irvine - composition (incl. mixed-media), socially-engaged practices
    • Dr Linley Hamilton - jazz- improvisation and composition

    NB: Prof. Frank Lyons (Associate Dean for Research and Impact) is also a member of the music team - composition, accessible arts-technology practices (Inclusive Creativity/Acoustronic projects) and music in the creative economy

Testimonials from our PhD graduates

It’s hard to convey in a few words just what an amazing, enriching experience doing a practice-based PhD at Ulster has been. It has been, literally, life-changing. As a mature student, it was a daunting undertaking. I was stepping away from a secure but unrewarding job. I was uncertain and wondered if I was intellectually up to the task. My beloved encouraged and supported me and when I was offered a chance to study with a scholarship stipend, I knew I had to take a leap of faith.

I was met with extraordinary support. I had a wonderful supervisor and the help of an exceptional team of individuals in the Doctoral College and across the University. I was encouraged to really explore my subject, to develop my own viewpoint, think across traditional academic divides, and I learned to view things intersectionally. The framework of Initial and Confirmatory Assessments was extremely useful.

It gave me well-timed, natural goals and helped stage my developing thesis. These experiences provided just the right level of challenge, elevating my work. I made the most of every opportunity - seminar groups, conferences, symposia and, luckily, teaching. I delivered my thesis on time, really enjoyed defending it and gained a University job. I could not have asked for more.

Dr Gerard Gibson - PhD (2023) in Cinematic Arts/Film and Screen, and Lecturer in Screen Production (Ulster University)

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.

Dr 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.

Dr Richard Graham - PhD (2012) in Music