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Postgraduate Research

Social Work

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work | PhD
Entry Year
Academic Year 2024/25
Entry Requirements


You'll be a social scientist committed to multidisciplinary research that builds knowledge and capacities in the communities around us, and that has a positive impact on wellbeing. You’ll care about young people and families, conflict and social change, social inequality, disability, ageing and health, criminal justice, drugs and alcohol, trauma, violence and abuse and the effect these have on society.

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 research councils, government departments, the EU, the Council of Europe and large foundations. Our research informs the development of policies in many areas, including education, criminal justice, teaching and learning, the well-being of children, social cohesion and justice, mental health and trauma informed practice.

Students are encouraged to join one of eight research centres in the School.

The Center for Children’s Rights (CRC) is internationally renowned for its research on children’s rights aimed at improving their lives. The CRC focuses on substantive children’s rights issues, children’s participation in decision making and children’s rights-based research methods. The CRC has a reputation for its consultations with children and is known for its work with various UN organisations such as UNICEF.

The Center for Shared Education (CSE) is committed to promoting sharing in education as a mechanism for delivering economic, social and educational benefits to children, schools and society, particularly in post conflict societies. The CSE has three core aims: to increase understanding of school-based sharing; to develop and share the model of shared education; to foster expertise and support practitioners.

The Centre of Language Education Research (CLER) conducts research in language and education to make difference across local, national and international contexts. The expertise of spans language assessment, literacy studies and multimodality, academic discourse, language materials development, and heritage and minoritized language communities, among other topics.

The Centre for Applied Behaviour Analysis (CABA) focuses on the discovery of natural laws of behaviour, the study of how behaviour is shaped by environmental contingencies and how changes affect behaviour. ABA is based on a philosophy of inclusion, evidence-based effective education, and person-centred research and practice, and covers three distinct fields: radical behaviourism; experimental analysis of behaviour and applied behaviour analysis.

The Centre for Justice Studies (CJS) provides a focus for criminological research. The scope of CJS research includes the causes and correlates of crime and other forms of social harms, as well as the responses of the criminal justice system. The CJS aims to encourage and support world-leading research on crime and justice related topics; to facilitate linkages between researchers and justice agencies, reform and abolition groups; and develop international excellence in criminological research; to create a vibrant culture of criminological ideas.

The Centre for Technological Innovations in Mental Health and Education (TIME) develops technology based, inter-disciplinary research in the areas of mental health and professional education and training. Key strategic drivers relate to the new Northern Ireland. Mental Health Strategy. The Centre has a particular focus on developing partnerships with industry, service providers and policy makers.

The Centre for Inclusion, Transformation and Equality (CITE) focuses on inclusion, transformation and equality, addressing core themes of disability; gender & LGBTQ+; equality in education; and ethnicity, race and decoloniality. The four key drivers of CITE are Inter-disciplinarity and intersectionality; building a collaborative and inclusive research culture; impactful research; and participation and co-production.

The Centre for Child, Youth and Family Welfare (CCYFW) provides insights into the lives of children, young people, and families and to achieve better welfare outcomes and improve wellbeing. The centre undertakes high quality research impacting children, young people, and families across regional, national, and international contexts. Staff work collaboratively with policy makers, agencies, practitioners, children and young people, families to review existing evidence, knowledge, and interventions, identify gaps, and develop new theoretical insights, interventions, tools, and models to enhance service delivery.

Subject Summary

Social Work Highlights

Internationally Renowned Experts
  • In the World Rankings, Queen’s is:

    Ranked 202 in the world (QS World University Rankings 2024)
    Ranked 28th in the UK (QS World University Rankings 2024).

    Queen’s ranked 18 in the world for international outlook (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023).

    Over 99% of Queen’s research environment was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

    SDG10 Reduced Inequalities: 39 out of 901 institutions.

    The School is home to leading international academic experts in specialist fields with several academics holding positions on government advisory councils, Chair positions on internationally recognised committees and memberships of several Research Centres across the University.

    Complete University Guide 2024 ranked Social Work 2nd in the UK along with The Guardian University Guide, 2023 and The Times and Sunday Times. Social Work is 10th in the UK for Research Quality.

    Queen’s is ranked 12th in the UK for Social Work and Social Policy (REF 2021/ Times Higher Education Subject Rankings).

    Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023 ranked Social Work 5th in the UK for Teaching Quality; 9th in the UK for research; and 7th for Graduate Prospects.

    Guardian University Guide 2023:

    9th in the UK for course satisfaction for Social Work
    5th in the UK for teaching satisfaction for Social Work
    =4th in the UK for Career Prospects for Social Work
    =5th in the UK for continuation for Social Work

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.
  • office accommodation with access to computing facilities and support to attend conferences for full-time PhD students.
  • a wide range of lectures and workshops on key aspects of writing a doctoral thesis

Student Testimonials

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 Research Centres
The Center for Children’s Rights (CRC)
The Center for Shared Education (CSE)
The Centre of Language Education Research (CLER)
The Centre for Applied Behaviour Analysis (CABA)
The Centre for Justice Studies (CJS)
The Centre for Technological Innovations in Mental Health and Education (TIME)
The Centre for Inclusion, Transformation and Equality (CITE)
The Centre for Child, Youth and Family Welfare (CCYFW)

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
Oluwadamilola “Dami” Osekita
PhD Sociology (Children’s Rights)
Project title: Examining state-civil society cooperation and legislation in creating enabling environments for children’s rights in Europe and Africa: Dynamics, challenges, lessons and policy options

I chose to pursue my PhD in SSESW at QUB for several compelling reasons. To begin, Queen's University Belfast is one of the few universities that has a centre dedicated to children’s rights research, globally. And the Centre for Children’s Rights is one of the centres situated in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW). In addition, SSESW has an outstanding reputation for its wealth of renowned experts in their various fields with opportunities for interdisciplinary research. Moreover, I was excited at the prospect of being part of a diverse and dynamic community of scholars and students, knowing it would provide an intellectually stimulating environment to achieve both my academic and career goals. Despite other offers from different parts of the world, SSESW felt like the right place to continue my academic journey.

Working towards a PhD can be isolating, however, SSESW offers not just academic support to its students but also fosters a sense of community from coffee afternoons, to writing retreats hence creating an environment that nurtures intellectual growth and well-being. Plus, I am part of a bunch of brilliant and passionate academics at the Centre For Children’s Rights.

PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: Professor Dirk Schubotz

Current PGR Student Profiles
Dadan Nugraha (Indonesia)
PhD Education
Project title: English Language Teachers' Digital Pedagogic Habitus and Post-Pandemic Educational Policy in Indonesia

I am incredibly fortunate to have undertaken my doctoral research at the School of Social Science Education and Social Work (SSESW) at Queen's University Belfast (QUB). This esteemed institution fosters advanced educational research and provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The most valuable aspect of this experience is receiving regular written feedback from my supervisor and engaging in frequent discussions with him. His encouragement, attentiveness, and creativity greatly aid in my development as a professional educator and academic. He hones my skills in various areas, including academic writing, formulating thoughtful questions, offering constructive feedback, and engaging in meaningful conversations with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Moreover, I have immensely benefited from auditing various modules and attending workshops and seminars offered by the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW) academic staff. In addition, the events organised by research centres like the Centre for Language Education Research have proven very beneficial. The relaxed discussions with both the school's academic staff and my fellow PhD students proved invaluable, as did the unwavering support and efficiency of the administrative team. Being a PhD student at this esteemed school has been a profoundly significant experience for me, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a genuine interest in the field of Education.


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 the public sector, such as Public Health Authority or Health and Social Care Boards or within NGOs. Queen's University 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

Meet our Staff


Professor Alison MacKenzie
Director of Graduate Studies

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

You are expected to take research training modules that are provided by the School. These modules focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods, and include participatory action research, arts-based research methods and multimodal interaction analysis, for example. Students will be provided with the SSESW PhD student training and engagement programme at the start of the academic year. You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of study, you are also encouraged to attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School. This training contributes to your training record which may be discussed at your annual progress reviews (APR).

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 9-12 months after registration for full time students and 18-30 months for part time students. You will be asked to submit work to a panel of two academics who will then meet you formally to explore your research at the 'Differentiation Panel'.

The Panel will make a judgement about your capacity to continue with your study based on the feasibility of your research design and commitment. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification, but this outcome is rare.

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

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

The PhD is open to both full and part-time candidates and is 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 an area of academic interest in some depth.

A part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals already working in the education field who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Part time candidates often choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

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 our academic staff. Your research question needs to engage with the research interests of our staff.

The 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 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 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, Professor Alison MacKenzie 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.

Full-time study (self-funding): 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:

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

Learning and Teaching



No Opportunities Currently Available

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 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.

Social Work 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