Education - Research
The research strategy of the School of Education focusses on Education in Society.
To undertake quality research in education that contributes to, and has an impact on, scholarly knowledge, professional practice, and society, at local, national, and international levels.
To facilitate social change and improve educational practice in a range of contexts and settings.
The PhD programme is an important part of the overall research environment within the School and we welcome applications to the PhD programme from interested individuals. Successful applicants will be joining a rich and vibrant unit that places a great emphasis on collaborative work and the sharing and development of ideas through regular research seminars, conferences and other events. They will particularly benefit from being able to learn from and share ideas with a range of other research students and academics working in related areas. In the application, applicants will be expected to illustrate clearly how they intend to interpret their chosen topic in terms of a clear set of aims and objectives and an appropriate research methodology.
Our research agenda is based around the following three core themes:
- Education and Conflict
- Children, Young People and Adults: Educating for Inclusion
- Teacher Education and Pedagogical Practice
Research facilities and groups:
Education and Conflict:
Education and Conflict is long standing research theme within the School. It is led by the UNESCO Chair, Professor Alan Smith, though his involvement with a number of international organisations, including UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and DFID. Research work related to building greater social cohesion through education in the Northern Ireland context features strongly with researchers working in the fields of history education, the promotion of good relations through informal education, the use of ICT to foster inter-cultural learning, and using GIS systems to monitor young people's social movements beyond their own immediate environs, in the context of divided communities. Proposals which examine the Northern Ireland educational experience in this field are welcomed but so, too, are in-depth or comparative studies based on work in conflicted situations in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Children, Young People and Adults: Educating for Inclusion:
Improving outcomes for children, youth and adults has been a research focus in the School over an extended period of time, with an emphasis on Special Educational Needs, inclusive education and social marginalisation. This work has generated a strong inter-disciplinary profile and strong partnerships have been established across health, welfare, social policy and youth justice domains inside and outside the University. Research proposals in the fields of SEN; all aspects children's welfare; and access to information, information literacy and inclusion are particularly encouraged.
Teacher Education and Pedagogical Practice:
The Teacher Education and Pedagogical Practice strand focuses on learning and teaching issues which both emanate from, and inform, the School's Teacher Education programmes, its TESOL programme, its work in continuing education and its Library and Information Management (LIM) activities. The School has had a long commitment to researching the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching and learning, encouraging the seamless application of ICT innovation to curriculum and practice. Research in this area includes the creation of learning communities linked through technology at primary, second, and tertiary levels, on-line learning and the creation of e-portfolios to enhance teacher creativity and reflection and the investigation of the potential use of iPad technology in Teacher Education. Research proposals in the fields of Teacher Education and pedagogical practice; TESOL; and LIM are particularly encouraged.
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 https://www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/apply/international-students
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.
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.
You can study for a PhD on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and by the end of your programme, you will have produced a body of work that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.
We have various routes to obtaining a PhD - for example, in some areas you can submit a practical element as part of your submission, such as a piece of art or a musical composition.
The MPhil programme is studied over a 2 year period on a full-time basis or 4 years on a part-time basis.
We would recommend that you contact one of our academic staff whose interests align with your own to discuss your intended research prior to submitting an application.
Year of entry: 2020/21
Postgraduate Information Session 26 March 2020
Register at: ulster.ac.uk/pg-information-events
Post Course Info
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.
Staff research areas
Dr David Barr
Dr Barr wrote his PhD on the role of computer technology in language learning and teaching, which has since been published as a research monograph. As part of this project, he carried out work at the Universities of Cambridge and Toronto. He is also a leading expert in computer-assisted language learning, serving as associate editor for two leading international journals in the area, and is a member of the WorldCALL steering committee: a seven- person advisory group with representatives from all over the world to support the development and direction of computer-assisted language learning internationally. His research interests for PhD supervision include:
The Web as a teaching tool. This project will examine how web-based and internet technologies are currently being used in the field of teaching and, in particular, in the area of language teaching. It will evaluate the success of these approaches and consider how these technologies may be used in the future.
Socio-constructivism in the 21st century language classroom. This project will consider current pedagogical approaches in language teaching. In particular, it will study the evolution of constructivism in light of changes in learning styles and methods, most notably the integration of ICT in learning.
Effective pedagogies in grammar teaching. This study will evaluate contemporary practices in teaching foreign language grammar and will examine student attitudes to the process. It will consider how changes in curriculum, learning styles and resources have affected and are likely to affect grammar instruction.
Dr Jessica Bates
Dr Jessica Bates has teaching and research expertise in Library and Information Management. Her research interests relate to information and social inclusion, information-seeking behaviours in a range of contexts and settings, school and academic libraries, and improving library and information services.
Professor Linda Clarke
Professor Linda Clarke's key research interests, which lie in teacher education are built around her teaching and leadership in Ulster and also her leadership and support roles in some of the key education bodies: The Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (for which she is the Northern Chair http://scotens.org), the UK Teacher Education Group (new book, Teacher Education in Times of Change, http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?k=9781447318545) and the British Education Research Association (SIG Convenor for BERA Teacher Education and Development (https://www.bera.ac.uk/group/teacher-education-and-development). Her professional expertise has also involved research and development work on Local and Global Citizenship, the use of ICT to enhance teaching and learning including the use of tablet computers, and teaching science in primary and post primary schools.
Dr Helen Hou
Dr Helen Hou's research interests include online communities of practice and student teachers' learning, ELT methodology, e-pedagogy and teacher education, educational technologies in the language classroom, Chinese learners, and qualitative research methodology and design.
Dr Aideen Hunter
Dr Aideen Hunter has teaching and research expertise in the teaching of Geography and Religious Education, integrated education and shared education. She is also interested in the main concepts and concerns of contemporary educational theory and practice in both Northern Ireland, the UK and internationally.
Dr Tracy Irwin
Dr Tracy Irwin has worked with a range of adult learners, including disaffected youth, women returners, the long- term unemployed as well as with male and female prison inmates. Her research interests reflect this range and she has published articles relating to prison learning. She is also interested in all aspects of educational disaffection, social exclusion and educational inequalities. Her teaching focuses on initial teacher training for lecturers and trainers working in Further Education (FE) and the adult learning sector.
Dr Jackie Lambe
Dr Jackie Lambe has teaching and research expertise in Art and Design. Her interests include ICT for teaching and learning; special education; distance learning as well as art and design education.
Dr John Milliken
Dr John Milliken's teaching and research interests include: strategic aspects of education; leadership and managing change in post-primary education; pedagogy and curriculum in post-primary education; organisational issues in integrated education; and use of ICT in education.
Dr Alan McCully
Dr Alan McCully's research interests are in the fields of History Education, Citizenship and the teaching of controversial issues, particularly as these relate to educational responses to conflict and peace building. He is currently investigating themes relating to education and peace building, namely the integration of peace building into education (and vice versa) including the role of teachers in peace building in Uganda.
Dr Sam McGuinness
Dr Sam McGuinness's research interests lie in the areas of educational leadership and educational policy generally. He has published on policy issues in Northern Ireland associated with the effects of the accountability agenda on schools and their leaders, and the growth and development of area learning communities. His current work involves the effects of distributing leadership in a faith school, and also on leadership development programmes north and south of the border.
Dr Una O'Connor
Dr Una O'Connor's research interests lie in the areas of special education and inclusion, citizenship, and the wider role of education in children's lives. She has researched and published on various aspects of special education, combining pupil, teacher and parental perspectives. She has been involved in evaluations of citizenship in formal and non-formal settings. Her current work involves an inter- disciplinary approach to explore education through social, cultural, health and political perspectives.
Dr Jacqueline Reilly
Dr Jacqueline Reilly's research interests lie broadly within the area of education for social justice. She has researched and published on various aspects of this, including education for local and global citizenship, human rights education and training, and peace education, particularly with a focus on issues of identity and divided societies. Current interests include the potential application of psychological theories of social cognition to the teaching of history in divided societies.
Dr Stephen Roulston
Dr Stephen Roulston is interested in the use of technologies to support learning and teaching. He has written on the innovative use of VLEs in schools, and has undertaken research on the use of mobile devices such as GPS trackers and their value in educational settings. He is involved in developing the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in classrooms, and has investigated their value in enhancing learning, as well as the barriers to implementation of those and other technologies in schools.
Dr Barbara Skinner
Dr Barbara Skinner has particular research interests on TESOL teacher education, TESOL classroom practices and pedagogy, teacher talk and classroom interaction, and threshold concepts in teacher education.
Professor Alan Smith
Professor Alan Smith is holder of the UNESCO Chair in Education at Ulster University. His work includes research on education and the conflict in Northern Ireland, young people's understanding of human rights and the development of social, civic and political education, alongside research on the role of education in peace building in conflict affected societies around the world, education and social cohesion, the role of education in reconciliation and analysis of aid to education in fragile and conflict affected situations.