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Postgraduate Research


School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work | PhD
Entry Year
Academic Year 2023/24
Entry Requirements


You’ll be a social scientist committed to ways of working, through multidisciplinary research, that build knowledge and capacities in the communities around us and have a positive impact on human wellbeing. You’ll work in academia and/or social research, or in the public or third sector, including areas such as victims and/or perpetrators of crime, rights-based approaches, people that have come in conflict with the law, youth and criminal justice, policing, education, conflict and social change, social inequality and similar areas.

Staff in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work publish world-class research which has local and global impact. Our funders and partners include the research councils, government departments, the EU, Council of Europe and the large foundations. School research is informing thinking and the development of policies in many areas including the well-being of children, social cohesion and mental health. Key interdisciplinary research themes in the School include:

Research under this theme focuses on the health and well-being of children, young people and adults in schools, the community and in institutions such as prisons. Our research relates to issues as diverse as substance abuse, socio-economic inequality, disability and inclusion, social emotions and the formation of identity, as well as undertaking evaluations of interventions programmes designed to improve health and well-being outcomes, and the inclusion of people marginalised by inequality and injustice.

Research under this theme explores the development of children and adolescents into young adulthood in their full social and structural contexts. A particular focus of our work in this area is improving social policies and social work interventions into the lives of families and young people. This multi-disciplinary research draws on a range of theoretical and methodological traditions with an overarching social justice ethos.

Research under this theme explores the antecedents of offending behaviours across the life course with an emphasis on the impact of traumatic life events and structural inequalities. The research also seeks to better understand the behaviours of criminal justice and other systems for their role in controlling or exacerbating this offending. The overarching social justice perspective that characterises this work situates these questions in the wider socio-political contexts in which they occur.

Research under this theme seeks to understand the sources, manifestations and impact of ethno-religious, national and social divisions in divided and transitioning societies, and the nature and effectiveness of efforts to build peace. Our particular interests relate to underpinning theories of conflict, the role of religion in divided societies, the impact of growing up in a divided society, the role of education and schools in promoting more positive intergroup relations in deeply divided societies, shared education, and issues relating to identity, culture and inclusion.

Research under this theme focuses on education in schools, further and higher education, and on how to improve educational opportunities and outcomes. Our research encompasses issues relating to curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, inclusion and
identity, and includes, for example, the effectiveness of literacy and numeracy programmes; peer tutoring and cooperative learning; teacher education; the nature of identity and authorship in higher education; teaching English to speakers of other languages and applied linguistics; digital literacy studies; children’s rights; and Applied Behaviour Analysis. As in other strands, the research is informed by diverse and innovative research methodologies and methods such as random control trials, interventions and programme evaluations, participatory action research, writing practices and knowledge production, and systematic reviews.

Subject Summary

Criminology Highlights
Internationally Renowned Experts
  • The School is home to leading international academic experts in specialist fields with a number of academics holding positions on government advisory councils, Chair positions on internationally recognised committees and in the third sector, and memberships of several Research Centres across the University.
Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in relation to the wide range of research activities undertaken within the School. There are many resources available including:

  • access to the PG Researcher Development Programme; office accommodation with access to computing facilities and support to attend conferences for full-time students; and, a range of lectures and workshops on key aspects of writing a doctoral thesis.
The experience of studying here has been rewarding. Not only does the school provide great academic resources but also a unique, humane environment that motivates me to achieve. Without my school’s support, I would never be able to engage in conversations with world-class academics.

Claire Zhao
PhD graduate

Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
The School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work combines a rich tapestry of disciplinary strengths, in Sociology, Education, Social Policy and Criminology, so that we proudly proclaim ourselves as key advocates for, the worth and value of the Social Sciences.

Our research is organised through a series of Centres and Networks in our core disciplinary research areas across five interconnected themes:
- Health, Wellbeing and Inclusion
- Children, Young People and Families
- Crime and Social Justice
- Contested Societies
- Education: Advancing understanding, improving outcomes

Research Impact
The School attracts significant funding each year. Recent funding successes include large research awards from prestigious research councils; AHRC, ESRC, NIHR and the MRC.

Research Success
We also secure funding at a local level with peer reviewed funding streams for example HSC Research and Development Office, DHSSPS and charitable bodies.School research is informing thinking and contributes to policy making at local, national and international levels. The School hosts the Pioneering Research Programme, the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation.

PhD Opportunities
The School attracts research students from many parts of the world.

Any project and funding opportunities can be found on the link below.

Current PGR Student Profiles
Clare Kilgallon
An exploration of the links between SEN student’s acceptance of support and attainment in inclusive classrooms and their awareness of interventionist and pathognomonic practice.
The purpose of this study is to explore Special Educational Needs (SEN) student’s cognizance of interventionist and pathognomonic beliefs and practice, and how these affect their willingness to engage with additional SEN support, and their success and participation in inclusive schools.
I will examine SEN students’ own beliefs about whether their conception of inclusion and the interventionist-pathognomonic belief system conceived by academics and teachers matches their own conceptions and awareness. This conception will then be compared to existing academic models, and students’ beliefs will be examined for correlation with their acceptance of aid and personal sense of achievement at school. This research aims to refine our understanding of pathognomonic and interventionist beliefs and the associated teaching practices as a means of offering mainstream teachers an effective set of tools to aid the learning and inclusion of SEN pupils based upon said pupils own lived experiences and expertise.
I first graduated with a degree in Law and Politics from QUB, followed by a Masters in Irish History and Politics from Ulster University and finally a Masters of Inclusion and Special Education from QUB. My interest in my current research comes from having been a SEN student myself, followed by 8 years working as a learning support assistant with SEN pupils in mainstream schools and my completion of the Inclusion and Special Educational needs Master's program at Queens. I have chosen to use participatory action research and Young Person's Advisory Groups to ensure my research fully takes advantage of the expertise and knowledge of SEN pupils and to ameliorate some of the more traditional power imbalance between researcher and researched.

Current PGR Student Profiles
Mohammed Owianeh
Epistemic Injustices and Capability Opportunities: Understanding Palestinian Girls Well-being in Education
My research aims at assessing Palestinian young girls’ opportunities to inclusive and equitable quality education in lights of the political conflict, and the socio-economic difficulties they face. I will draw heavily on Miranda Fricker's (2007) account of Epistemic Injustice and Nussbaum’s (2011) version of the capabilities approach as the frame for my argument.
I am particularly interested in contemporary social epistemic studies, especially the ones that tackles epistemic relations from a decolonial perspective. I am interested in children, women, and people with disabilities rights in contexts of conflict, particularly Palestine. I am also interested in applying the philosophies of social epistemology on works of fiction, particularly anime and manga.

Current PGR Student Profiles
Jennifer Rose
A conceptual analysis of student voice exclusion in Higher Education testimony through the decolonization of Fricker’s epistemic injustice

Jennifer's research interests are in the philosophy of knowledge, decoloniality, ethics, related psychology, and epistemic relations in and between our social and material world. Her focus is on exploring the role of knowledge in our epistemic relational practices, its effects on the social spread of knowledge and understanding in testimony, and its effects in the broader society. Areas of concern that she explores are how knowledge is produced, what constitutes knowledge, how can theories of knowledge can be further developed, and the origins, nature, and limits of knowledge and the factors (such as epistemic vices, virtues, forms of ignorance, deception, or lay or structural or lay epistemic practices, needs or limitations) that impede or foster the social spread of knowledge and understanding in testimony and their relationship to social justice.

SECONDARY SUPERVISOR: Professor Allen Thurston

Current PGR Student Profiles
Emilia Symington
An Investigation into the Experiences of Parents and Young People with Regards to Freedom of Expression and Religious Beliefs
Emilia Symington is a PhD candidate in the field of Children's Rights. Her thesis will look at the relationship between parents and children in an Anglican context with regards to freedom of expression and religious beliefs. Data will be collected through dyadic biographical interviews, and interpreted through a theoretical lens based on theories of resolving conflicts in human rights.
Emilia completed her BA in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham, and her MSc Children's Rights at Queens University Belfast. Her Master's thesis documented the experiences of young women in East Belfast with regards to their sex education, through holding a number of focus groups. In addition to her own project, Emilia leads a couple of undergraduate tutorials in the departments of Sociology and Social Policy.
PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: Professor Laura Lundy

Career Prospects

Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in businesses or the public or third sector. Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability.

Employment after the Course
For further information on career development opportunities at PhD level please contact the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Career Development Team on / +44 28 9097 5175 The AHSS Development Officers will be happy to provide further information on your research area career prospects.

People teaching you

Dr Dirk Schubotz
Director of Graduate Studies

Meet our Staff


Learning Outcomes
A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student’s written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.
Course structure

There is no specific course content as such. You are expected to take research training modules that are supported by the School which focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods. You are also expected to carry out your research independently under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of study you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Queen's Graduate School.

You will normally register, in the first instance, as an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree. The decision as to whether you should undertake an MPhil or a PhD is delayed until you have completed ‘differentiation’.

Differentiation takes place about 9-12 months after registration for full time students and about 18-30 months for part time students: You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of two academics who will then meet you formally at your ‘Differentiation Panel’ to discuss your work. The Panel then makes a judgement about your capacity to continue with your study. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification.

To complete with a doctoral qualification you will be required to submit a thesis of approximately 80,000 words and you will be required to attend a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner to defend your thesis.

A PhD programme runs for 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year should it be required.

The PhD is open to both full and part time candidates and is often a useful preparation for a career within academia or consultancy.

Full time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue in some depth an area of academic interest.

The part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals or those unable to commit to full time study seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Often part time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional interests..

If you meet the entry requirements, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take PhD students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research interests need to align with the research interests of one of our staff.

Application Process

Please review the eligibility criteria on the webpages. If you believe that you meet these criteria then follow the steps below:
Using the School filter option within our 'Find a PhD Supervisor' Tool (, select ONE potential supervisor from our list of Academic Staff and send an email containing:

a brief CV (1-2 pages maximum)
a concise statement why you are interested in studying for a PhD, stating when you would start, and how you would plan to fund the research
a brief statement of the research question or interest, and how you think the question could be investigated

Our academic staff welcome approaches from prospective students. Staff can liaise with applicants to develop a research proposal of mutual interest.
The potential supervisor should get back to you within a couple of weeks. They may invite you to meet with them or they may invite you to apply formally.

If you have difficulty identifying or contacting an appropriate supervisor, please contact our Director of Graduate Studies, Dr Dirk Schubotz, or the SSESW PGR Team (email: or who will be happy to help.

For part-time study – the closing date for this option is 31st August each year.

For full-time study (self-funding) – for those full time candidates who do not wish to compete for a studentship or who are not eligible to compete for a studentship the closing date is 31st August each year.

For full-time study and application for a scholarship/award; please be aware that awards are only available to full time students. Candidates wishing to apply for scholarships available within the School must apply for full-time study at the same time. Available scholarships and closing dates are detailed on the 'Find a PhD' page:


Assessment processes for the research degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback;

A formal assessment process takes place annually. This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.


Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.


The School is situated across a suite of three buildings in Belfast's Queen's Quarter. We provide student and staff common rooms, computer suites and designated study spaces. Explore the teaching and social spaces in our School through our 360 Virtual Tour:

Full time PhD students will have access to a shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.

Learning and Teaching



Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,596
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,596
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,596
EU Other 3 £18,900
International £18,900

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. The NI/ROI, GB and Isles fees relate to academic year 2022-23 and will be updated to 2023-24 rates once they have been confirmed. All fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Criminology costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees

Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

How do I fund my study?

1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.

Download Postgraduate Prospectus