City scape

Art & Design - Research

Research Institute for Art and Design Art (RIAD) is one of the largest Research Institutes at Ulster University, with more than 50 academic staff actively engaged in research, teaching and academic enterprise. Ulster's Art and Design research, including architecture, is in the global premier league with a research environment for staff and research students that was assessed to be 100% internationally excellent/world leading in the most recent nationwide assessment, the REF2014.

Research students are members of the RI and of 5 interconnected clusters that are driven by shared research interest in themes that are of value to society, culture and the economy. The REF2014 also recognised Ulster's focus on practice and applied research in over 70% outstanding impact, the highest accolade. Research staff at Ulster achieved highest percentage of world leading publications within the University and the 3rd highest rating in the UK sector as a whole. Over 75% of staff research publications are world leading or internationally excellent.

The University welcomes applicants interested in research relevant to all art and design disciplines including fine art, applied art and craft, design, sculpture, painting, textiles, fashion, photography, moving image, animation, ceramics, silversmithing and jewellery, interior design, architecture, art history, creative industries, cultural industries and curation.

Art and Design PhD Research has a history of three decades and represents the largest art and design doctoral cohort of any institution on the island of Ireland, also comparing very well with UK institutions in track record and size. All-Ireland research engagement is ensured through our partnership in GRADCAM (Dublin), NI Gradschool and research projects with other institutions.

Art and Design research at Ulster University's particular strengths lie in interdisciplinary research, research with practice, art research related in relation to civic and societal challenges and in the key processes and concepts which underwrite innovative research practice in art and design. Research is encouraged in a context that investigates and redefines inherited models of practice and categories of value. The impact of digital media and new technologies on the production, distribution and mediation of art and design are important considerations in much research. Research questions are examined in the context of the wider social/economic/political arena of the nation and the world.

As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements
You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.


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

Career options
Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

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).

Further enquiries

Professor Karen Fleming
Art & Design Research Institute Director
Tel: +44 (0)28 9536 7267
Email: 


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

Application is through the University's online application system.

Research areas

Please see UU website for detailed Staff Research Areas.

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!