Art & Design - Research

Ulster University - Belfast

Art & Design - Research

The Belfast School of Art was established in 1849, making it the oldest School in Ulster University. It enjoys a longstanding and rich research environment.

Ulster's Art & Design Research environment for staff and PhD Researchers was judged to be 100% internationally excellent and world-leading by REF2014, with 80% at 4* and 20% at 3*. We were ranked 3rd in the UK for our world-leading 4* research. Our lecturers and professors are practicing artists and designers who are actively involved in research, some of which is undertaken in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines. Our focus on practice and applied research is highly regarded, with over 70% of our impact being rated as world-leading.

The school draws on it's international networks, bringing important figures in the world of art and design to Belfast to work with our Researchers. Our growing and thriving provision positions us as one of the leading providers of art and design education in the UK and the largest on the island of Ireland. We provide a centre of excellence and an environment for innovation, creativity and energy.

Our PhD community hosts approximately 50 researchers at any given time. Every year, we offer approximately 7 PhD Scholarships and are also part of the AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership through the Northern Bridge Consortium. Additionally, we consider commercially funded PhDs as well. We welcome applicants interested in researching across the spectrum of Art & Design disciplines and encourage interdisciplinary research with other sectors. Our staff also co-supervise PhD Researchers in other research units including Computer Science, Business & Management and Arts & Humanities in particular. Our main thematic groups are:

- Arts, Conflict & Society
- Art, Design & Health
- Art, Space & Place
- Creative Industries

Applicants are subject to Research supervisor capacity.

Research Facilities
We are located at a new state of the art building in Belfast city centre, next to the Cathedral Quarter, an area that is known for its vibrancy, where the University plays a central role in the creative and cultural life of the city. The PhD community at Belfast is exceptionally dynamic. Their PhD research space is in the heart of the research hub for the School and within the wider Art & Design community of Undergraduate and Postgraduate students. Our PhD researchers have recently led and launched their own peer reviewed, in-house Journal Publication called Intersections as a print and digital edition. It nurtures interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge sharing across the Faculty of Arts Humanities & Social Sciences, which is the home of nine different Research Units.

We enjoy strong relationships with the cultural sector and industry, through, for example, collaborative agreements with the Ulster Museum and long-standing engagements with national galleries. We are also a key stakeholder in the AHRC-funded Creative Cluster called Future Screen NI and Studio Ulster, a Belfast City Regional Deal pillar project. These specialist centres bring together industry and academic research across animation, film & broadcast, games, immersive technology and virtual production, providing a truly creative and collaborative context in which to undertake doctoral study. Further, we have access to the excellent facilities across the Belfast School of Art course subjects which includes a new facility for Screen broadcast and immersive technology, as well as virtual production.

Applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors in good time to discuss draft research proposals. For general enquiries please contact the Research Director for Art & Design, Dr Brian Dixon or our PhD coordinator, Dr Catherine O'Hara.

Where practice-based or applied research is proposed, we expect to see a portfolio of related Art & Design Practice which may be reviewed as part of the preparation for application and more formally considered during interview.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master's Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Get additional information for International applicants at

English language requirements
In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.

Get full details on the requirements for both home and overseas applicants can be found on our English language requirements page.

Application dates

We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies.

Get full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application (see "Application Weblink" below.

Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system (see "Application Weblink" below.

Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.

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Careers and opportunities
PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Doctoral at UK Level 8

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

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    Course provider