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Nursing & Health Research - Research

REF 2014 results show that 96% of nursing and health sciences research at Ulster University is of international excellence or 'world leading'

Postgraduate Research Education within the School of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences is organised and delivered through the Institute of Nursing and Health Research The Institute is well known nationally and internationally for providing high quality research training, which is relevant to nursing and health practice.

Nursing at Ulster University is in the premier league of universities in the UK and in terms of 4* research (i.e. research that is world- leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour) we are ranked among the top 3 universities. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results show that 96% of nursing and health sciences research at Ulster University is of international excellence or 'world leading' and 100% of our research impact and 100% of our research environment are also recognised and world leading or internationally excellent.

The University welcomes applicants interested in researching Health and Rehabilitation Technologies, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Chronic Illnesses, Maternal, Fetal and Infant Research, and Person-centred Practice Research.

One of the aims of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research is to train high calibre researchers who can work independently and who can contribute towards the advancement of knowledge in nursing and health sciences and the delivery of health services. We offer excellent supervision and support.

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 conditions
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University's General Entrance 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

Dr Donna Brown
Tel: +44 (0) 28 9036 8512
Email: 


Research facilities and groups
There is excellent infrastructure of supervision and support for students both off and on campus. The Research Graduate School supports and monitors postgraduate research education in the Faculty. It is responsible for ensuring high quality supervision. One of the key roles of the Research Graduate School is to organise student conferences, usually at three crucial points during the doctoral programme (at three months, at the end of the first year and prior to submission of the thesis). Regular seminars are also organised by the Institute of Nursing and Health Research at which staff and students present their research and discuss methodological and other issues. The emphasis is on promoting a culture which values research.

The Institute of Nursing and Health Research provides a unique experience for doctoral students who wish to develop their research skills and knowledge in order to make a significant contribution to knowledge in their chosen fields. Within the Institute of Nursing Research there are 5 Research Centres:

Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies
(Head of Centre: Professor Suzanne McDonough,

Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
(Head of Centre: Dr Laurence Taggart,

Managing Chronic Illness Research Centre
(Head of Centre: Professor Vivien Coates,

Centre for Maternal, Foetal and Infant Research
(Head of Centre: Professor Marlene Sinclair,

Person-centred Practice Research Centre
(Head of Centre: Professor Tanya McCance,

In addition, the Institute of Nursing and Health Research is supporting the development of programmes of research in mental health nursing (as part of a University-wide development in mental health research), nursing and health sciences education and health promotion. The purpose of the centres and evolving programmes is for members to focus on their selected areas of expertise and to support each other, share ideas and resources in order to promote research in their fields, locally, nationally and internationally. MPhil and PhD supervisors are drawn mainly from these groups. We invite applicants to make contact with the relevant Centre leader and/or postgraduate tutor if they want to discuss a project for their study.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Research areas

Staff research areas
Professor Owen Barr
Physical and mental health of people with learning disabilities, Attitudes towards people with learning disabilities, Community care, The role of genetics in health care.

Dr Rosario Baxter
Children's nursing, Medical ethics and law.

Dr Pauline Black
Critical Care, ICU delirium, family involvement in care.

Dr Donna Brown
Evidence-based practice, culture and context, knowledge utilisation, person-centred practice, pain management, older people and nursing outcomes indicators

Ms Jackie Casey
Seating & postural control interventions for children and young people; Design of equipment to meet the needs of disabled children and their carers; Virtual reality with children; DCD in children.

Professor Vivien Coates
Self management of diabetes mellitus, People's management of chronic illness in general Research relating to nurse education.

Dr Wendy Cousins
Health Psychology, Children and Young People, Organizational communication, Mental Health, Qualitative Methodologies .

Professor Helen Dolk
Epidemiology, Womens health, Congential abnormalities.

Dr Orla Duffy
Speech and Language Therapy

Dr Patricia Gillen
Midwifery research and women's health.

Dr Jackie Gracey
Management of low back pain within physiotherapy; exercise and advice in the management of low back pain; cancer related fatigue and the role of exercise.

Dr Mary Hannon-Fletcher
Macromolecule damage (DNA, lipid and carbohydrate), antioxidant and micronutrient, including folate and related B-vitamins, status in health and disease.

Dr Ciara Hughes
Physiology, cell biology and complementary medicine.

Dr Sinead Keeney
Cancer Prevention, Attitudes to Cancer, Suicide and Self Harm, the Delphi Technique and Consensus Methodologies.

Professor George Kernohan
Research to support evidence-based practice, especially to improve the creation and use of knowledge across health systems, using information technologies.

Dr Daniel Kerr
Acupuncture, low back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, patient advice and education.

Dr Greg Kelly
Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing and Autism.

Dr Dianne Liddle
Non-pharmacological management of musculoskeletal disorders; exercise and health; health care incorporating the perceptions and expectations of the service user.

Dr Maria Loane
Perinatal epidemiology, congenital anomalies, medication exposures in pregnancy, data linkage

Professor Suzanne Martin
Community care policy and practice; electronic assistive technologies; ageing in place; Supported housing options.

Professor Tanya McCance
Person-centred nursing/practice, practice development research, nursing outcome indicators, caring in nursing.

Professor Eilis McCaughan
Needs assessment in cancer care, Gender issues in cancer, Evaluation of nursing interventions

Professor Suzanne McDonough
Physical activity and health care technologies used for musculoskeletal and neurological rehabilitation.

Dr Sonyia McFadden
Radiation dose, medical imaging, dose optimisation, protocols, DNA damage, interventional radiology.

Dr Helen McGarvey
Preoperative nursing and the care of patients undergoing surgery, Therapeutic value of nursing, Telematics applications in nursing.

Professor Sonja McIlfatrick
Palliative and end of life care; Family care giving and supporting carers, Palliative care and chronic illness.

Professor Hugh McKenna
Health Care workforce, Theory generation and testing, Mental Health, Interdisciplinary Research, Patient and Public Involvement in research.

Dr Oonagh McNally
Biology, Student learning, E-learning.

Dr Vidar Melby
Emergency care, vulnerable people.

Dr Kevin Moore
Gerontological nursing, role of support workers in health and social care, psychological assessment in the post-stroke period, person-centred nursing for mental health clients.

Dr Fidelma Moran
Respiratory diseases with special interest in bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis and the respiratory management of neuromuscular disease; non- invasive ventilation; outcome measurement including dynamic lung function and sputum.

Dr Brenda O'Neill
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise, rehabilitation after critical illness, oxygen therapy, bronchiectasis, patient education and self management.

Professor Kader Parahoo
Research/evidence dissemination and utilisation, Evaluation of interventions, Risk taking behaviours.

Dr Alison Porter-Armstrong
Community care policy and practice; caregivers; assistive technologies and pressure care mapping.

Professor Assumpta Ryan
Gerontological nursing and the care of older people, family care giving, community care for older people, impact of entry to care on older people and their families, health and social care in rural areas.

Professor Marlene Sinclair
Midwifery, Birth technology, Evidence-based practice.

Dr Paul Slater

Dr May Stinson
Seating; postural management; pressure ulcer prevention; the use of technologies including pressure mapping to prevent the development of pressure ulcers.

Dr Laurence Taggart
Mental health and people with learning disability, Assessment, treatment and management evaluation of people with learning disabilities, Service provision development, Alcohol use and people with learning disabilities.

Dr Iseult Wilson
Musculoskeletal, low back pain, shoulder pain, musicians' playing related disorders.

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