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The postgraduate community in Creative Arts is one of the largest in the UK or Ireland (over 100 registered PhD students in 2013-14) with students working on a range of theoretical, historical, practice-based and technical projects across the School.  The international student population is extremely valued and serves to establish word-wide graduate networks reaching Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America. In 2013, a third of the 43 students conducting research at SARC was either international or from EU countries.

The School offers PhD programmes in all areas of staff research expertise and interests. PhD programmes can consist of thesis only, portfolio of creative practice with commentary and a hybrid submission which combines a written thesis with practice based work.

Regular events aiming at sharing research include the “IdeasLab”, based on presentations around broad themes (e.g. space, gesture, notation, improvisation) and the “PhD Roundtable” aimed at interdisciplinary discussion. The Electronic Arts Research Society (EARS) is a student-led initiative, which organises public activities such as workshops and concerts both within and outside the University. Other student-led activities have included conferences and study days such as “Bach and the Chorale” (2008), “Music without Walls” (2009), “Traditional Music Symposium” (2010, 2012), “Conference on Gender and Performance”(2013), the “Society for Musicology in Ireland Postgraduate Conference” (2011), “Messiaen Study Days” (2012), and the “Traditional Music, Technology and Performance Symposium” (2012). These opportunities make an important contribution to student entrepreneurship, skill acquisition and network development. Student development is an important part of the PhD programme and the School has a nation-wide training programme since 2011. “Big Ears: Sonic Art for Public Ears”, funded by the AHRC and HEA has trained over 40 students from across 15 UK institutions in public engagement in partnership with the Belfast Children’s Festival, involving over 100 children.

The main feature of the postgraduate environment for students in the School is the support provided by the supervisory team and the broad programme of postgraduate training. Students work towards regular milestones to ensure adequate levels of support and monitoring and sharing of good practice, such as the annual review process based on a presentation and question session open to all students and staff.


PhD students have been extremely successful in presenting their work in international conferences and festivals such as the North America British Music Studies Association, International Computer Music Conference, Sound and Music Computing, New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Computer Human Interaction, Society for Musicology in Ireland, Electroacoustic Music Studies, International Symposium on Electronic Art, Belfast Film Festival and Visible Evidence. Recent prizes include the Nicholas Temperley Prize at NABMSA 2008 (Burnell), two awards in the SHUT UP AND LISTEN 2011 international competition (Crawley and Haworth), SondAr-te Composition Competition 2009 (Alessandrini) and an award for the Arts Council NI Creative Industries Innovation Fund 2012 (Heinz), the French Embassy Entente-Cordiale Bursary (Leonard, 2012), the Peter Lang Young Scholars Award (Blair, 2012) and McClusky’s AHRC-funded Library of Congress Residency (2013), the Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab Performance Fellowship 2013 (Monaghan), 2013 BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellowship in Music (Molloy) and winner of the 2010 West Cork Music Composition Competition (Molloy).

Student mobility plays an important part in establishing sustainable relationships with international partners. Between 2011 and 2014 seven students were in funded residence at the University of São Paulo and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, two at CMMAS, Mexico and one at the University of Michigan. New partnerships as well as student recruitment is facilitated by international showcase events such as SARC in Brazil (2009), and SARC in Australia (2011). PhD graduates have been extremely successful in securing both post-doctoral opportunities and academic positions internationally. Destinations include institutions such as McGill University, MIT, New Zealand School of Music, Bournemouth University, University of Tromsø, National University of Ireland, Leeds College of Music, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Rio Grande do Sul and Sulaymaniyiah University, Iraq.



Northern Bridge public policy engagement toolkit

View the public policy engagement toolkit: Its purpose is to introduce arts and humanities researchers to the public policy development process, and to help you think about the wide range of ways your research can help shape public policy.



The School has an excellent record in securing prestigious AHRC awards in addition to DEL awards and various studentships from international funding bodies. The School contributes to the AHRC Northern Bridge Block Grant Partnership programme in a consortium with the Universities of Newcastle and Durham. The consortium awards PhD studentships to top candidates and provides excellent research training opportunities across the three institutions.

For more information on funding please visit the Postgraduate Research Funding pages  



Prospective students are encouraged to contact potential supervisors during the development of a research proposal and prior to formal application through the online portal. []

Once an application is submitted the School will get in touch to schedule an interview.

The School operates an open deadline for the receipt of application, however applications will only be considered for funding if submitted within the deadlines published in the Postgraduate Research Funding pages.


Contacts for PhD Study:

Sonic Arts: Dr Simon Waters

Drama:  Dr Paul Murphy

Film: Professor Cahal McLaughlin

Music: Professor Jan Smaczny 

Arts Management and Cultural Policy: Dr Victoria Durrer


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