Ph.D. Degree

The mission of the Special Education doctoral program is to contribute to the scientific knowledge base and train experienced professionals to assume leadership roles in their area(s) of expertise and interest. Faculty are committed to promoting practices and research that facilitate inclusion, empowerment, and self-determination of individuals with disabilities and other special learning needs in home, school, and community settings.
The program is flexible in orientation and is designed to accommodate student interests in areas in which ECPS faculty members have specific expertise. These areas include educational policies and practices that support inclusion of diverse learners in classrooms and schools, as well as educational and other supports for children, adolescents, and/or adults with needs across the specialty areas of concentration represented by SPED faculty.
Doctoral training follows the scientist-practitioner model, with preparation in both research and professional skills. Doctoral students form an integral part of the Special Education area’s research, teaching, and service activities. Doctoral students are expected to (a) gain experience in university teaching such as designing high-quality course syllabus, (b) engage in scholarly activities such as conducting research, preparing and submitting manuscripts for publication, and engaging in knowledge mobilization at conferences, and (c) providing service to community and/or professional organizations.

Program Prerequisites: Completion of M.A. or equivalent program in Special Education, or a related field.

Program Requirements

The PhD program of studies in Special Education is developed for each student to reflect program requirements as well as individual student professional and academic preparation and career goals. A program committee comprised of the student’s supervisor and two other faculty members with expertise relevant to the chosen areas of focus. The program committee will guide the student in creating their program of study (PGS) and will also serve as the Comprehensive Exam committee, with the following requirements:

1. Research Methodology:

Students will be advised to take a range of research methodology courses in order to be knowledgeable in both quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry. By the completion of the program, students are expected to be well-versed in multi modes of inquiry and should demonstrate developed competency in at least two research methodologies (i.e., through coursework, lab experiences, etc.)

Students may wish to pursue a sub-specialization in Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methodology (MERM), which involves taking 6 MERM courses. See for more information and a list of MERM research methods courses that are offered.

2. Content Area Coursework:

Specific additional coursework requirements are determined by the student in consultation with their program committee based on their goals, previous background, and specific content interests.

It is recommended that students explore different perspectives by taking some relevant coursework outside the program area, department, and/or Faculty of Education as part of their coursework requirements.

3. Doctoral Thesis Required Content Courses

All students will need to register for EPSE 699: Doctoral Dissertations as part of their PGS.

Details regarding structure of UBC doctoral dissertations.

4. Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations are required for all SPED Ph.D. students. Learn more about the PhD comprehensive exam. The Comprehensive Examination.

Criminal Record Checks

All Ph.D. students who undertake a field experience that involves work with vulnerable populations (for example, children in schools) MUST have a criminal record check completed through the University of British Columbia’s Teacher Education Office prior to starting the course. The criminal record check CANNOT be done at a local police station or RCMP office. If you are from a country other than Canada, you are required to contact the appropriate authority and have the check completed in your home country.
Learn more about Criminal Record Checks.