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One of the most challenging and rewarding ways to study is to travel your own path and do a research degree at PhD level. Studying at this level requires that you like doing independent research and have demonstrated, at some stage in your academic or professional career, an ability to write critically at an advanced level. 

The starting point for a PhD is finding an appropriate supervisory match.  At the School of Business, we are well established in the area of postgraduate research supervision. Currently, we have approximately thirty research students engaging in research across a wide range of topics relating to business, and we welcome applications from prospective students wishing to pursue independent postgraduate research. 

So for example, if you are interested in how firms grow and develop you may be engaged by our research on enterprise development, regional economy, leadership capability, knowledge sharing and transfer, and innovation.  If you are interested in how firms finance and govern their affairs you could be inspired by our research in behavioural finance and capital markets, small firm finance, governance and corporate responsibility, and personal finance. If you are interested in marketing, we have specialisms in branding, service innovation, strategic marketing, and business-to-business marketing. 

For more information on our research expertise, visit the Research Centres/Groups in the School of Business.


When does the PhD Programme start and how long does it take to complete?

Our PhD programme runs throughout the academic year.  New research students are typically enrolled at either the beginning of September or the beginning of January.  Students may enrol on either a full-time (FT) or part-time (PT) basis.  The minimum enrolment periods for each option are:




Minimum 48 months


Minimum 72 months


What does undertaking the PhD Programme entail? 

The School operates a Structured PhD programme, which is a development of the traditional PhD where students select an area of enquiry and complete their doctoral thesis under the supervision of one designated supervisor.  On our structured programme, you will work with a supervisory team (minimum of two supervisors) to develop your doctoral thesis.  In addition, in consultation with your supervisors, you will identify specific areas where you would benefit from attending taught modules, and will complete 30 ECTS credits, before programme completion. 

In summary, undertaking the structured PhD programme entails the following:

  • You will develop and execute a research project under the supervision of highly-qualified research leaders.

  • You will demonstrate outstanding scholarship and ability, conducting original, independent research while acquiring a comprehensive knowledge of the specialist area wherein your research is focussed. 

  • You will participate in a range of taught modules, tailored to your individual training needs, covering both generic and discipline-specific skills designed to enhance your career development following graduation.

  • Your research will culminate in a written doctoral thesis which will be assessed at a viva voce examination.

A wide range of modules are available for selection on the programme, designed to enable you to develop your ability to undertake independent research at an advanced level.  Both Universal modules (designed to develop generic skills) and Project Path modules (designed to develop discipline-specific skills) are made available. You are required to complete 30 ECTS before submitting your doctoral thesis.


Universal PhD Modules available to research students

The following Universal Path Modules are provided to enable you to develop important generic skills.  Students must complete a minimum of 10 credits from these modules:

Full Title


Module ID

Research Planning and Project Management



Innovation and Entrepreneurship



Statistics and Quantitative Data Analysis



Research Integrity and Ethics (mandatory)



Introduction to Research Methodologies



Research Communication



Academic Writing for Research Postgraduates



Practical Pedagogy for Research Postgraduates



Power, Place and Knowledge Production



Project Path Modules available to research students

The following Project Path modules are designed to enable you to develop important discipline-specific skills.  Students must complete a minimum of 10 credits from these modules.

Full Title


Professional Skills Development 1


Business Theory Development and Application 1


Research Philosophy


Qualitative Data Analysis


Advanced Statistical Analysis


Directed Independent Learning


External Advanced Research Learning


External 5 Credit Module


External 10 Credit Module


The entry requirement for registration on a PhD research degree is an Honours Bachelor degree (minimum level: Second Class Honours) in a field of study related to the subject matter of the PhD degree sought.

For applicants whose first language is not English, demonstrable competence in English, both spoken and written, is also required (e.g. 6.5 IELTS).  Please see SETU Waterford’s English Language Requirements for details.


How much are the fees for the PhD Programme? 

Postgraduate fees are payable annually and a listing of the current Postgraduate Fee schedule is available.

Aligned with our School’s aim of developing a deep understanding of important global, societal and economic issues, our current doctoral students are engaged in researching a wide range of topics. A summary of the research projects currently taking place is provided below.

Research Student

Research Topic

Research Supervisors

Lisa Spencer

Exploring the Antecedents of SME Internationalisation and Related Government Agency Support

Prof. Sheila O'Donohoe

Yogesh Jaiyawala

An exploratory investigation of the role of residential property and other pension assets in life-cycle retirement household income for median earners in Ireland

Mr. John Maher, Dr. Richie Burke, Dr. Sean Byrne

Patrick Buckland

An Exploration of the Career Social Mobility Beliefs of Senior Female Academic Leaders: A Social Identity Approach

Dr. Chris O'Riordan & Prof. Felicity Kelliher

Norah Storey

An Exploration into the Influences Underpinning the Decision-making Process of Institutional Investors in the Low Carbon Agenda: Perspectives from Germany, Ireland and the UK

Dr. Tom Egan, Prof. Sheila O'Donohoe

Katie Scallan

Ethnography of Board Meetings and Boards of Directors

Dr. Collette Kirwan, Dr. Richie Burke, Dr. Ray Griffin

Theresa Mulcahy

Competing logics in family firms who engage in the professionalisation process by hiring external professional accountants at management level

Prof. Sheila O'Donohoe, Dr. Collette Kirwan

Paraic McGee

Risk disclosure in green bond prospectuses and its impact on price: An EU Exploratory Study

Dr. Tom Egan, Prof. Sheila O'Donohoe

Charlie Browne

The trading book in banking: An exploratory study of valuation and market risk controls

Dr. Cormac O'Keeffe, Prof. Sheila O'Donohoe

Lorna Bailey

An Explanatory Framework for a Lean Open System: A Critical Realist Perspective

Dr. Pat Lynch

Niall Crosbie

Investigation of the Nature of the Regional Innovation Paradox

Prof. Bill O'Gorman & Prof. Frank Peck

Marie Gubbins

Supervisor Social Support During Times of Change: An Exploration of Lower-Level Employee Experiences

Prof. Denis Harrington; Prof. Peter Hines.

David McCaffrey

The mediating role of contemporary medical professionalism: The case of primary care physicians

Dr. Chris O'Riordan & Prof. Felicity Kelliher

Aidan Walsh

An investigation of competencies for managing lean improvement projects in Irish hospitals: A mixed methods study.

Prof. Denis Harrington; Prof. Peter Hines.

Edel Jennings

 Renegotiating With the Wild In Destination Branding - Using Participatory Technologies To Support A Transition To Sustainable Tourism In The Age Of The Anthropocene

Dr. Anthony Foley, Dr. Pat Lynch

Emma Maguire

The social life of a law: An ethnography of the Irish Charities Act, 2009.

Dr. Ray Griffin, Dr. Collette Kirwan

Orla Hayes

Exploring Data Utilisation Strategies for Marketing Campaign Development Across the Omni-channel for Small-to-Medium Sized Business-to-Business Enterprises

Prof. Felicity Kelliher, Dr. Pat Lynch

Triona Bartholin

An exploratory study into employee and human resource professional perceptions of People Analytics.

Prof. Felicity Kelliher, Dr. Bryan Harney (DCU).

Grainne Dilleen

Understanding the internal and external factors influencing the farmer’s decision-making process when adopting Smart Farming Technology.

Dr. Ethel Claffey, Dr. Anthony Foley, Prof. Denis Harrington

Adrienne Hawley

Seeing the Labour Market

Dr. Aisling Tuite, Dr. Ray Griffin

Antoinette Jordan

The Social Life of Datafication

Dr. Zeta Dooly, Dr. Ray Griffin

Amy Whelan

Examining the drivers to sustainable consumer behaviour in the Irish aviation industry.

Dr. Ethel Claffey, Dr. Paul Morrissey

Nadia Blanchfield

Bridging Peripheral Business Communities Through Native Culture Engagement Leveraging Digital Technologies

Prof. Felicity Kelliher, Dr. Eugene Crehan, Dr. Seamus Dillon

Michelle Clancy

Establishing an Innovation Footprint in the Cultural Quarter of a Regional Capital City

Dr. Eugene Crehan, Dr. Tom O'Toole

Joe Foley

Engaging Rural Business Communities: Broker Influence on Socio-economic Regeneration

Dr. Leana Reinl, Dr. Tomas Dwyer (ITC), Prof. Felicity Kelliher

Darren Byrne

A Study of the Organisational Behaviour of Software Test Engineers, Contributing to the Digital Transformation of Banks in the Irish Financial Sector

Dr. Aisling Tuite, Dr. John Organ, Dr. Tom O'Toole

Navleen Girdhar

The role of Higher Education entrepreneurship eco-systems on students’ entrepreneurial identity formation.

Dr. Margaret Tynan, Dr. Deirdre Fleming (ITC), Prof. Felicity Kelliher

Dr. Sinead Mellett:

My name is Sinead Mellett, I completed the PhD programme under the auspices of RIKON on the Waterford Campus, expertly supervised by Prof Felicity Kelliher and Prof Denis Harrington.

The programme was exceptional, it was well organised with tremendous research support and mentoring.

On graduating, I took up a post-doctoral position at NUI Galway working on an Interreg Atlantic Area project RiskAquaSoil. I am currently a scientific researcher in Athlone Institute of Technology working mainly on an Interreg Atlantic Area project Neptunus.


Dr. Noel Murray:

My research study examined the complex phenomena of strategically managing tourism destinations, as there is no one person/firm in charge. The findings provided insight into the key management capabilities required by specific actors, who play an essential role in managing the wide diversity of offerings in tourism destinations.  Working with and learning from research experts at RIKON, my PhD supervisors and the wider academic team here, had a ‘transformational’ impact on my development. I cannot speak highly enough of the time and effort invested in me by my supervisors, who at all times pushed me to excel. This ensured that I developed the research skills and critical insights necessary to progress my academic career. I feel extremely lucky to have completed my PhD here, as I know it has prepared me for a career in academia. I really enjoyed the PhD programme, which at times was particularly challenging, but was also extremely rewarding.

On completion of my PHD, I secured a role lecturing in the Department of Marketing & International Business, at Cork Institute of Technology (now Muster Technological University - MTU). After 2 years in this role, I was appointed Head of Department of Tourism & Hospitality at MTU.


Dr. Andrea McNamara:

Under the auspices of the AIB Centre for Finance and Business Research within the School of Business, I completed my PhD in the research area of small and medium sized firm financing in 2014. My supervisor was Prof. Sheila O Donohoe.

The PhD programme provided the platform to strengthen my knowledge and technical skills in the chosen research area whilst providing the support and encouragement to instill greater confidence. It also facilitated me in taking greater ownership of my own learning.

 Upon completion of the PhD, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in National University of Ireland, Galway. Currently, I am working as a Lecturer in Accounting and Finance in SETU Carlow Campus.


 Dr David Pasley:

I completed my PhD in 2016 through the University’s AIB Centre for Finance and Business Research. My PhD thesis was entitled, “An investigation of inefficiencies in enterprise supports: A study of the Irish enterprise support system”.

I had exceptional supervisors, who achieved the right balance of challenge and support to guide me through the process. Beyond the critical supervisor-student relationship, there is a highly supportive culture among the entire faculty. This approach meant that I did not just have access to lecturers and researchers, but was part of a community who took a genuine interest in both my research and personal development and went above and beyond to support me. I was also able to tap into a global research community which provided opportunities to present my research in different countries and contexts and gain valuable feedback as I went through the process.

Since completing the PhD, I joined the civil service and work as an Assistant Principal in the area of police oversight.


Dr. Eileen Tan

You will laugh, you will cry, you will eat your heart out or tear your hair out while studying PhD, but rest assured that you will not be alone. Supports from the School of Business and its experienced faculty, research supervisors and research groups are always there.  Under the supervision of Drs. Anthony Foley, Mary T. Holden and Noel Murray (MTU) of the RIKON research group within the School of Business, I completed my PhD in late 2020. My research area focused on customer retention through social media marketing. During my years in the PhD programme, I grew from a novice to a researcher committed to high standard scholarship, which I credited to the auspices of my dedicated supervisors and the School of Business which provided me with an environment to grow both professionally and academically.

The application procedure for research degrees in SETU Waterford varies depending on whether you plan to pay fees and other costs yourself (“self-funded”) or whether you are applying for a position funded by a research grant awarded to a SETU Waterford staff member (“funded”). 

Funded Research Positions:

Opportunities for funded research projects leading to postgraduate awards are typically advertised through the media and on the SETU Waterford website.

All applications for admission to funded postgraduate research degrees at SETU Waterford are made via the submission of a completed application form submitted by email to the Postgraduate Admissions Office.

Useful Guide

Self-Funded Research Positions:

The School also welcomes applications for self-funded research projects, i.e. those that are not, at the time of your initial interactions with SETU Waterford, funded by an external research funding body.  Typically, in this case, you may approach the School with your own concept for a research project, which you plan to self-fund for the duration of the project.

Applications for admission to self-funded research degrees at SETU Waterford are made through the Postgraduate Application Centre .  However, before you make an application for a self-funded PhD, you are requested to complete the pre-application steps below.

Pre-Application Steps for Self-Funded Research Positions

It is strongly recommended that preliminary discussions take place between the potential applicant, a prospective supervisor and the Programme Leader/Head of Department, before a formal application to join a research programme is made. This is to ensure that the School has the requisite expertise, capacity and authority to offer supervision to you. 

For help finding a prospective supervisor for a self-funded research position, please contact the PGR Research Programme Leader, Dr. Anne Sweeney , forwarding a brief research proposal and a full CV. 

Guidelines for Preparing a Research Proposal

To identify potential supervisors, you are requested to forward a brief research proposal to the Programme Leader,  Dr. Anne Sweeney. The proposal should set out precisely the nature of the study area, the objective of the research you plan to pursue, the research question(s) you seek to answer, an outline of the proposed methodology, and an assessment of the contribution the study would make.  This should be written in a formal academic style, with proper and appropriate academic citations and references, and should enable a potential supervisor to decide if the proposal is congruent with their current research interests.  As stated above, this should be accompanied by a full CV.

If a suitable supervisory team is identified at this stage, you will be advised to make an application for a self-funded research position through the Postgraduate Application Centre. If however, the School does not have the capacity to provide supervisors for your research project, you will be advised not to submit an application.

 Useful Guide

Enrolling on the Postgraduate Research Register

Once an application to join a research programme has been submitted and approved by the Head of Department, (and eligibility criteria is checked by Registry), you and your supervisory team will then submit a completed PG_A2 Form, to enable you to enrol on the postgraduate research register at SETU Waterford.  Once the PG_A2 Form is approved, you will be invited to register at SETU Waterford and the research programme commences.


Course Leader
Anne Sweeney
Dr. Anne Sweeney
BBS, MBS, MCIPD, PhD - Lecturer in Management
Tel: 51845613 [email protected]

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