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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
- Exercise biochemistry

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.

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 two distinct fields: Exercise Medicine, Physical Activity and Health; the social sciences of sport. Research in these fields is conducted within 2 discrete research centres.

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


Research facilities and groups
The Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute (SESRI) aims to facilitate, co-ordinate and to carry out high quality research and to promote a vibrant culture of research and scholarship within Ulster University and in partnership with health providers, sports governing bodies and other centres of excellence.

Our main centres for research are:
Centre for Exercise Medicine, Physical Activity and Health
Researchers within the Centre explore a range of research themes relating to a healthy society, including physical activity and disease prevention, sports medicine, metabolism and nutrition, epigenetics and DNA damage.

The Centre has established a world-wide reputation in Exercise Medicine, Physical Activity and Health related research. Our research is published by leading academic publishers, high-quality peer-reviewed journals, and informs policy and guidelines nationally and internationally. Our research is funded by the Medical Research Council, Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke, The Royal & Ancient, Interreg Europe, the Public Health Agency, Diabetes Foundation, Sport NI, and a range of other international partners and agencies. There is ongoing media interest in our research, and we engage widely in dissemination of our findings with local, national and international partners.

The Centre is supported by a state-of the-art laboratory infrastructure, equipped for basic and applied studies that are internationally excellent and world-leading.

Centre for Sport in Society
The Centre for Sport in Society brings together colleagues from across Ulster University who conduct research on a range of disciplinary perspectives in the social sciences.

This research explores themes and issues associated with the cultural, political, social, economic and historical import of sport in a variety of local, national and international contexts including Ireland, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States.

The work of Centre members that was submitted to the Research Excellence Framework exercise in 2014 was praised by the assessment panel as being internationally excellent and in some cases, world-leading.

Since 2005, Centre members have secured research funding from a range of prestigious sources including the Economic and Social Research Council, the European Union, Special Olympics, the British Academy and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Our work is also impactful and applied and has involved research conducted with a range of governing bodies and key stakeholders in sport including the Irish Football Association, UEFA, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, World Rally Championship, Special Olympics Ireland and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

There has been considerable media interest in our research leading to its dissemination in a wide range of local, national and international media outlets.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

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