Institution / Ulster University Coleraine
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Sport Physical Activity & Health - Research

We conduct world-leading and internationally-recognised locally relevant and applied research in sport, physical activity and health.


Research in sport and exercise science is conducted through the Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute (SESRI) and is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of staff and postgraduate students, which represents research quality at national and international levels. Given the applied nature of the research conducted by SESRI, we have developed a range of research collaborations at the international, national and local levels involving governing bodies of sport, hospitals and medical facilities and practitioners, local and national government and other key stakeholders in sport, exercise and physical activity.

Research areas include:
Adolescent lifestyle and health.
Health benefits of physical activity.
Social sciences of sport including sport for development and peace; sport and migration; sport and inclusion; pain and injury in sport; sport and identity politics; sport and disability (intellectual and physical) and sport management.
Sport and exercise psychology, physiology and biomechanics.
Sport technology.
Sports medicine and physiotherapy


Within the group, funding has been secured from a variety of sources including a range of prestigious research councils and charitable foundations, the European Commission, the European Social Fund, the Department of Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland) and from commercial partners through Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology (CAST) studentships and fully funded studentships.Research within SESRI encompasses three distinct fields: physical activity and health; the social sciences of sport; sports science and medicine. Research in these fields is conducted within 3 discrete research centres.

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. For general entrance requirements go to:

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.


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.

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 Carla McCabe
Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute
T: 02890 366388

Research areas

Research facilities and groups

SESRI is comprised of three research centres that conduct research related to sport, exercise and physical activity from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

The Centre for Sport in Society
brings together colleagues from across the university who conduct social scientific research on sport. The work currently being undertaken within the group explores a range of themes associated with the cultural, political, social, economic and historical import of sport in a variety of local, national and international contexts. These themes and contexts include analyses of: sport labour migration; sport, the Irish and identity politics; sport and diaspora; sport and equity (gender and disability); pain and injury; physical education and sport; international comparative sport policy, the public governance and management of sport and sport federations and their sustainable role in civil society; sport for development and peace.

The Centre for Physical Activity and Health
uses epidemiological and empirical methods to investigate the role of physical activity and exercise in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and the promotion of psychological well-being. A major strength of the group’s work is the multi-disciplinary approach to research. Our research includes lifestyle intervention studies, investigations of the underlying systemic and cellular mechanisms and epidemiological cohort studies. This work has contributed to the evidence base for recent public health physical activity recommendations and is cited in recent national and international guidelines.

Research in the
Centre for Sports Science and Sports Medicine
aims to further our understanding of the learning processes, mental imagery processes and biomechanical principles governing sport and exercise performances across the spectrum ranging from beginner to elite performer levels. Key disciplines include cognitive and behavioural psychology and biomechanics. The centre also conducts research in the area of sports medicine, particularly acute soft tissue injury management; ankle sprain prognosis and rehabilitation; cryotherapy and recovery.

Sports science and experimental exercise and health research activities are largely facilitated in three world class well-equipped laboratories in physiology, biochemistry and biomechanics at the University’s Jordanstown campus, along with a ‘field-lab’ in the new Sports Facility. Researchers also enjoy access to other departmental laboratories in the University as well as facilities in local hospitals. All postgraduate students in the area are provided with an individual workspace in a postgraduate study room.

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date: September 2017

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