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Art & Design - Research


The Belfast School of Art was established in 1849, making it the oldest School in Ulster University and 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 its world-leading 4* research. Our lecturers and professors are practicing artists and designers who are actively involved in research, several of which, in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines. Our focus on practice and applied research is recognised with over 70% of our impact being rated as world leading.

The school draws on its 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 more than 40 researchers at anyone time. We offer approximately 8 Scholarships each year. Additionally, we are part of the AHRC Funded Doctoral Training Partnership through the Northern Bridge Consortium. We welcome applicants interested in researching across the spectrum of Art & Design disciplines. We 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 have recently moved to a new state of the art building in Belfast city centre, located in 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 a vibrant one. 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 for example Collaborative agreements with the Ulster Museum, long standing engagements with national galleries, collaborative PhD's with NI Pain Forum, and a key stakeholder in the AHRC funded Creative Cluster, called Future Screen NI. This specialist centre brings together industry and academic research across animation, film & broadcast, games and immersive technology.

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.


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. Justin Magee or our PhD coordinator Dr Catherine O'Hara.

Where 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.

Additional information for International applicants may be found

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.


PhD Research
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.

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Contact supervisor
Dr Justin Magee

+44 28 9536 7015



Research facilities and groups
Research Clusters
Research Students are members of the Research Institute for Art and Design. Under the Director of the Research Institute for Art and Design, 5 Research Clusters were established in 2010. Art Conflict and Society, Art and Context, Creative Ecologies, Space and Place, and Future and Virtual Worlds. There is an annual Research Institute away day and occasional seminars, Visiting lecturers and events throughout the year. The Research institute also has cross cutting interest in archives and ephemeral art practices.

Research students are aligned to a cluster that provides an additional intellectual and critical environment for their research studies. The research publications emerging from the subject are evidence of the University's reputation as a centre of international research excellence in the field.

Interdisciplinary projects
The interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art and creative industries means that postgraduate study within the Art and Design subject area also frequently involves teamwork, is cross-disciplinary, or conducted in collaboration with researchers from outside the centre, including partners in other institutions, industrial networks and international collaborators. Cross-Faculty and interdisciplinary topics are welcomed.

Research Graduate School
Researchers benefit from the community of peers in the Faculty Research Graduate School, headed by Professor Neil Hewitt. The Research Graduate School has administrative responsibility for all aspects of the art and design PhD researchers' progress from initial application through to final examination including an annual conference and other events.

Research Facilities
The majority of Art and Design Research doctoral students are based in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast Campus. The refurbishment of the University's Belfast campus provides Art and Design with a purpose-built environment that follows over 160 years of art and design education in Belfast. The Belfast PhD suite is a purpose built space with adjacent study, editing and meeting spaces. Research facilities for students at Belfast include a recently built research student home base with workspaces, networked computing, access to inter- and intranet, printing and scanning facilities.

The Belfast campus accommodates state of the art Learning Resource Centre, containing a substantial collection of material on Art and Design in the form of books, journals, periodicals, videos, CD-ROMs, a 35mm slide collection, and it offers access to a wide range of e-publications. The campus also has workshop production facilities for: ceramics/embroidery/wood/metal/plastic/silver and jewellery/textiles print/weave/knit/ stitching/felting/fashion/photography/animation/ video/printmaking. Architecture is growing area for research and practice. General and specialist computing laboratories provide access to Macs, PCs, and workstations with connections to the Internet. Specialist clusters of computers are located throughout the campus.

Application date


We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies. 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, is available at the link below.

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

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.

Research areas

Please see UU website for detailed Staff Research Areas.

Enrolment and start dates

Year of entry: 2020/21

Postgraduate Information Session 26 March 2020
Register at:

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