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Postgraduate Research

Education (Integrated)

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work | PhD
Entry Year
Academic Year 2022/23
Entry Requirements


The Integrated PhD in Education is designed to prepare you for doctoral-level study by providing a year of taught research-focused modules before you move on to your PhD research.

The programme is suitable for all those wishing to engage in research but should appeal to those who have the basis of a research project but require additional support to develop this into a feasible PhD study.

The integrated 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  who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of their professional interest. Often part-time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

You’ll be part of a dynamic interdisciplinary doctoral research environment and will study alongside students from over 25 different countries; we supervise students undertaking research in a very broad range of social science topics across all subject areas represented in our dynamic School, and you can benefit from studying and learning together with fellow students with research projects in Criminology, Education, Social Policy, Social Work and Sociology. 

As part of a lively community of over 200 full-time and part-time research students, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your research potential in a vibrant research community that prioritises the cross-fertilisation of ideas and innovation in the advancement of knowledge.

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.

*Year 1 of the Integrated PhD is only available for full-time study therefore the part-time route is only available after year 1 is complete.

Education (Integrated) 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 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 and there are many resources available including:

  • Access to the Queen's University Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme

Course content

Research Information

Research Success
The School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work provides a rich and vibrant context for educational research. The core discipline of Education at Queen’s is one of the leading areas for educational research in the UK and Ireland and our education research has been ranked 4th within the UK in relation to research intensity with 87 per cent of the research undertaken within this subject assessed as 'internationally excellent' or 'world leading' (REF, 2014).

Research Themes
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 andidentity, 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.

Find a PhD Supervisor
Find A PhD Supervisor

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 educational practice, the public, private or third sector or within NGO’s. Queen's University postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability.

Employment after the Course
A key aim of the Integrated PhD programme is to ensure that graduates receive all the support necessary to succeed as an academic researcher, but are also able to develop the high-level research skills and project management experience that will enable them to become desirable candidates for high level positions beyond the university sector.

Employment Links
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 Faculty Development Officers will be happy to provide further information on your research area career prospects.

People teaching you

Dr Caitlin Donnelly
Module Co-ordinator

Dr Dina Belluigi
Module Co-ordinator

Dr Dirk Schubotz
Director of Postgraduate Research Studies

Dr Katrina Lloyd
Module Co-ordinator

Dr Laura Dunne
Module Co-ordinator

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


During your first year you will be required to complete four taught 30 CATS core modules (see below for module descriptions):

- Introduction to Doctoral Research: The research process
-Theories, Frameworks and Concepts
- Principles of Research Design, and
- Applied Data Analysis

You will also be required to complete a pilot research project during your first year of study* and will be allocated a supervisor for this project at the beginning of the process. This pilot research project will help enhance your initial research proposal (required for your course application) into one that can have a demonstrable impact, not only in terms of academic debate and theory, but also in relation to work-based policy and practice.

The taught modules will equip you with the skills necessary to organise, conduct and report on a research report as well as transferable employment-ready research skills.

On successful completion of year 1 you will have gained competence in the following:
-critical evaluation of relevant literature;
-ability to apply a range of research methods;
-skills in communicating research findings and identifying the practical implications of such findings for a range of professional groups. These competencies will be demonstrated through the successful completion of assignments and a dissertation on a topic which will be in your area of professional expertise.

Year 1: Comprises 4 taught doctoral-level modules (30 CAT Points each) and a research project worth 60 CAT points. After successful completion, you will qualify to transfer to the research phase of the integrated PhD. Alternatively, you may exit the course with an MRes in Social Science Research.
Year 2: You will undertake specific skills training and avail of the training courses from the Graduate School. At the end of Year 2 you will be required to differentiate (see below under Research Element), to assess whether you can go on to study for the PhD or the MPhil pathway.
Year 3: You will complete skills training, research and fieldwork, taking an Annual Progress Review, in line with PhD study.
Year 4: In this final year you will complete your data analysis and write up your thesis. You will submit your thesis and take a Viva Voce (oral examination). The viva will determine if you will exit with a PhD or an MPhil.

Part-time students will be required to complete the taught core modules in Year 1 of their study and their mini-research project in Year 2. The research element of the PhD will begin in Year 3 with the student expected to differentiate by the end of Year 4. Students will normally submit their thesis at the end of Year 8.

Module 1: Introduction to Doctoral Research – The research process.
The purpose of this foundational module is to acquaint students with the concept and practice of doing research at doctoral level. The module seeks to foster students’ understanding of the doctoral research and supervisory process and to explore how doctoral research differs from other types of research. Students will learn how to write at doctoral level, thus harnessing their skills of criticality and research independence. The focus will be on ensuring that students have the requisite foundational skills and knowledge to enable them to design piece of doctoral research.

Key subject areas covered in the module will include:
· The doctoral research process
· Searching for literature
· Writing at doctoral level
· Reviewing literature at doctoral level
· Generating research questions at doctoral level
· Research methods and rigorous research
· Ethics in doctoral research and the importance of research governance
· Identifying research gaps and making a theoretical contribution through doctoral research
· Making an impact through doctoral research

Module 2: Theories, Frameworks and Concepts.
This module explores how to identify, use and apply theories, concepts and frameworks to describe, analyse, critique and reflect on research problems and strategies. These will be used to engage students in understanding the difference between a concept, theory and framework, and how these help researchers make sense of social phenomena. The module will involve critical engagement with literature related to one or more of the approaches.

The aim is to deepen students’ understanding of how to move from abstract generalisations of theory, concepts and frameworks, to considerations of why these are important to research, and the ways in which they are operationalised in practice.
· What is a theory?
· What are concepts and frameworks?
· Why are they important for doctoral research?
· How to use theories, concepts and frameworks to develop doctoral level research.

Module 3: Principles of Research Design.
The main aim of this module is to provide opportunities for students to develop an understanding of the key principles involved in designing and implementing research that is fit for purpose and has an impact not just academically but also in relation to policy and practice. They will be introduced to paradigms underpinning research; quantitative and qualitative research designs; general principles of sampling for quantitative and qualitative research designs; secondary data sources and access; principles of ethics and governance in research; issues of generalisability, validity, reliability, and replicability within quantitative research designs, and how to define and formulate research questions and hypotheses. Throughout the module the emphasis will be on the connection between research questions and the methods that are appropriate to address them.

· How to design and implement research strategies
· Quantitative and qualitative research
· Secondary data analysis
- Relationship between research questions and methodological approaches

Module 4: Applied Data Analysis.
The main aims of this module are to enable students to understand, interpret and critique output from quantitative and qualitative data and to carry out their own data analysis. The lectures will focus on the interpretation and critical evaluation of data. The computer sessions will provide hands-on experience of carrying out analysis of quantitative and qualitative data using programmes such as SPSS, Stata and NVivo to consolidate learning. These will be accompanied by supplementary videos of how to carry out analysis of qualitative data and the statistical tests covered in the lab classes.
· Understanding data and data analysis
· Computer-based analysis of quantitative and qualitative data
· Statistical analysis

For all taught modules you are required to:

• participate in all scheduled sessions (a minimum attendance is required).
• submit initial assignment drafts for formative feedback.
• submit a final 4,500-5,000-word assignment or, for Module 4, two 2,250 – 2,500word assignments.


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 a range of issues and skills required during your PhD study, such as research methods, research ethics, systematic literature reviews, writing skills etc. You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

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

After successful completion of year one, 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 starting the research element for full time students and about 18-30 months for part time students: You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of up two academics and this is followed up with a formal meeting with the ‘Differentiation Panel’. The academics on the Differentiation Panel then make 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.

The research element 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.

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

Select ONE potential supervisor from our ‘Find a Supervisor’ web page and send an email containing:

- a brief CV (1-2 pages maximum)
- a concise statement that 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 Postgraduate Research 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 Funding and Scholarships web page:


The taught element consists of 120 CATS of taught modules which are assessed by written assignment, together with a Pilot Research Project worth 60 CATS. There are no written examinations.


Taught element: formative feedback is provided for the initial draft of assignment.


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

Project name School Funding Subject Status Sort Timestamp

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 £18,000
International £18,000

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, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. 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 are for the academic year 2022-23, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Education (Integrated) costs

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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.