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Postgraduate Research


School of Arts, English and Languages | PhD
Entry Year
Academic Year 2024/25
Entry Requirements


SARC: Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Sound and Music is established as a broad research environment
supporting work in all areas of sound and music. The PhD programme ranges from thesis focused to creative practice portfolio, with options for hybrid models combining practice and theory. Areas of research include: historical and critical musicology, sound studies, composition, socially engaged arts, performance studies, improvisation, interaction design, instrument design, audio signal processing, immersive sound and psychoacoustics.

SARC membership includes over forty academics from across various Schools in the University including the School of Arts English and Languages, School of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics and the School of Natural and Built Environment. As a dynamic and international community of researchers, SARC hosts regular events with invited scholars, researchers and artists. The PhD cohort is core to the research culture and includes over thirty students from various backgrounds and nationalities.

Mode of study/duration

Registration is on a full-time or part-time basis, under the direction of a supervisory team appointed by the University. You will be expected to submit your thesis at the end of three years of full-time registration for PhD, or two years for MPhil (or part-time equivalent).

Subject Summary

The PhD programme allows for tailored supervision and research processes based on a candidate’s interests and skills while aligning with academic staff research interests and SARC’s broader research strategy. If you pursue research in Musicology, you will focus on scholastic study of significant figures such as Bach, Handel and Mozart as well as contemporary performance, critical studies in sound and music, improvisation, folksong, and experimental music. If you are a practitioner, you will work across a broad range of creative practice from performance, composition, installation, sound design and audiovisual work. Interdisciplinary PhD proposals are encouraged to approach sound and music topics from a variety of disciplines.

Music Highlights

Career Development
  • The biennial Sonorities Festival offers unique opportunities for student involvement including showcasing research work through performance, installation and seminar presentations.

    Regular workshop events allow students to gain skills and develop contacts with organisations such as the Ulster Orchestra and the Hard Rain Ensemble as well as local art galleries and community organisations.
World Class Facilities
  • SARC is an interdisciplinary research environment focusing on various aspects of sound and music. The Sonic Arts Research Centre is a purpose designed building with a state-of-the-art Sonic Laboratory and multichannel studios. Belfast is ranked in the top 10 fastest growing tech cities in the UK (UK Digital Economy Council, 2021).

    The PhD programme supports research across scholarly work and practice-based research, including hybrid formats allowing tailored submissions combining a range of media and textual outputs.

    Curated seminar and concert series taking place weekly throughout the semester offer students opportunities to engage in research in an international context and expand their networks.

    Students are encouraged to collaborate with their peers and participate in ongoing research projects led by academic staff.
Internationally Renowned Experts
  • SARC has a membership of over eighty expert researchers including academic staff across various disciplines and a thriving international community of PhD students.
Student Experience
  • The PhD programme supports research across scholarly work and practice-based research, including hybrid formats allowing tailored submissions combining a range of media and textual outputs.

    Curated seminar and concert series taking place weekly throughout the semester offer students opportunities to engage in research in an international context and expand their networks.

    Students are encouraged to collaborate with their peers and participate in ongoing research projects led by academic staff.

    SARC has a dedicated PhD lead who sits on the SARC Steering Committee and ensures effective communication across the PhD cohort.

    Queen’s was ranked 3rd out of 65 universities worldwide for our Graduate School.

Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active part in the activities of SARC and there are many resources available including:

  • SARC has world-class performance and audio visual recording facilities in the SARC and Music buildings (Harty Room and Harty Studio).
  • SARC's Interaction Lab is a multi-use space for installations, experimentation and cross-disciplinary research.
  • SARC organises concerts, seminars, festivals and conferences with opportunities for research student participation. Our biennial Sonorities Festival is a major international event.
  • SARC composition PhDs benefit from partnerships with the Ulster Orchestra and Hard Rain Ensemble.
  • SARC PhDs can access courses and training organised by the Queen's Graduate School.

Student Testimonials

Course content

Research Information

Research Projects
- Covid-19 Data Sonification #65
- Virtual Reality Audio for Cyber Environments (VRACE)
- Map a Voice
- The Crunch Test
- SARC_Immerse
- Sounding Conflict
- Humanising Algorithmic Listening
- The Mozambique Case Study
- NI Hospice Sound Gardens
- Sounds of the City – Engaging Communities in - ---- Sonic Arts
- Performance Without Barriers
- Belfast Sound Map
- Recomposing the City
- Distributed Listening
- The Soundscape Park Project
- Translating Improvisation
- Street Society: Innovative and Imaginative Approaches to Activate Specific Sites in Belfast

Career Prospects

Many of our PhDs have assumed academic or research roles in Higher Education; some have assumed artistic residencies; others have thriving careers are freelance recording artists; employment in industry as an audio or software engineer is another destination.

People teaching you

All additional academic staff


Dr Sarah McCleave
Doctoral programme director (Music)

Learning Outcomes

Studying for a PhD enables a student to develop their critical, research and/or artistic skills to a high level, while pursuing a subject of personal interest. A PhD is normally required for academic positions.

Course structure

1. Students work to a timetable agreed with their team of two supervisors, availing of training offered by the Graduate School and also undertaking a bespoke Programme of scholarly or artistic activities agreed with their supervisors. Students undergo a differentiation procedure (progression from MPhil to PhD), normally after the equivalent of 9 months of full-time study; progress thereafter is measured through a presentation of materials to an annual progress review panel. Students may register for a writing up year after the equivalent of 36 months of full-time study. Assessment is by dissertation (80,000 words), portfolio (scope to be agreed), or a mixture of contextual writing and portfolio submission - examined in viva format by one internal and one external examiner. The viva normally occurs after 3-4 years of full-time study or 6-7 years part-time study.

2. APPLICATIONS: 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 list of Academic Staff ( 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 Dr Sarah McCleave (email: who will be happy to help.

We encourage applications a good nine months before you intend to register, certainly no later than three months before you intend to register.

Available scholarships and closing dates are detailed on the School's Scholarships web page:


Students are not awarded marks for coursework at PhD level; in late spring each year, they present work to a small panel of lecturers in their subject; the panel for this procedure (annual progress review/APR or differentiation for first year students), has the discretion to recommend whether the student may progress to the next academic year, whether they must repeat the APR, be obliged to register for the MPhil or required to withdraw. Around 4-6 weeks after the formal submission of the dissertation or portfolio, the student will undergo an oral viva with two examiners who have reviewed their submitted work, where the result is expressed as the level of revision required (none, minor major revisions), which is indexed to a period of time for completion (3 or 6 months). Alternatively, the result could be that the student is required to resubmit the work for a Master's degree or that no degree is awarded.


Students will receive formative feedback from their supervisors throughout the course of the degree, upon submission of work. Opportunities to receive formative feedback in performance workshop or study day formats is also possible.


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

- This is a research degree.


Entrance requirements

A 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. While a Master’s degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) is not essential, it is desirable and applicants without this qualification will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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 TBC
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 TBC
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 TBC
EU Other 3 £20,500
International £20,500

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. All fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Music 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