Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education (PhD)
The Special Education program at UBC concerns the education of students with exceptionalities, such as students with visual impairments, developmental disabilities, emotional or behavioural disorders, learning disabilities, gifts and talents, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Faculty are committed to promoting practices that facilitate inclusion, empowerment, and self-determination of individuals with disabilities and other special needs in home, school, and community settings.
What makes the program unique?
- Only university in the country to offer graduate coursework in special education across all areas of exceptionality.
- Opportunities for practical experiences with a variety of district and community partnerships.
- We offer opportunities for research and funding through faculty partnerships.
- We offer opportunities to change practice for the better through Special Education faculty initiatives.
- Outstanding support through a world-class faculty and staff to guide you on your academic journey!
Contact the program
Admission Information & Requirements
1) Check Eligibility
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based
Overall score requirement: 90
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 6.5
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
The GRE is required by some applicants. Please check the program website.
2) Meet Deadlines
September 2022 Intake
Application Open Date19 September 2021
3) Prepare Application
All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education (PhD)
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
4) Apply Online
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,732.53||$3,043.77|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$969.17 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2021 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $22,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $22,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.
- 1 student received a Teaching Assistantship valued at $12,250.
- 2 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 2 students was $12,764.
- 6 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 6 students was $15,070.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching Assistantships (GTA)
Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.
Research Assistantships (GRA)
Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
16 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 14 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):
RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher EducationUniversity of British Columbia (2)
Capilano University (2)
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Royal Roads University
University of Bahrain
University of Manitoba
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationCanucks Autism Network
Winnipeg School Division
BC Provincial Government
Coquitlam School District
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationDirector of Programming
Senior Behavioural Consultant
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
Completion Rates & Times
This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.
Butler, Deborah (special education, learning disabilities, inclusive educational practices, intervention research for students with learning disabilities, Collaboration and co-regulation in teachers' professional learning, collaborative professional development models, learning disabilities in adolescence and adulhood, mathematics, metagocnition and self-regulated learning, research methods in educaiton, strategic performanc ein reading, writing)
Cannon, Joanna (Special Education and Social Adaptation; Teacher Education; Educational Approaches; Speech and Language Development Disorders; Language Acquisition and Development; Cognition and Language; Literacy Training; Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing; Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing with complex language or cognitive needs)
Ervin, Ruth (Systems Change, Prevention and Intervention Strategies in Special Education )
Holbrook, Cay (special education, Special education, education of students with visual impairments, instruction in Braille reading and writing)
Jamieson, Janet Ruth (Education of deaf and hard of hearing students)
Katz, Jennifer (Inclusive Education; The Three-Block Model of UDL; Universal design for learning (UDL))
Knight, Vicki Floyd (Applied Behaviour Analysis; Autism Spectrum Disorders; Developmental Disabilities; Single-Case Research; Academic Interventions; Instructional Strategies)
Lo, Owen (Gifted Education, High Ability, Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, Multiculturalism, Problem Solving, Qualitative Research, Research Methodologies, Sociocultural Approaches to Learning and Teaching)
Lucyshyn, Joseph (Applied Behaviour Analysis, Behaviour Disorders, Behavioural Family Intervention, Positive Behaviour Support, Single-Subject Research)
McKee, William (Developmental psychology; Educational psychology; Special education and disability; Autism; Behavioral Disorders in Children and Adolescents; Behavioral Problems; Children and Youth with Special Needs; Educational Counselling; Learning Disorders in Children; Mental Health and Psychopathology in Children and Youth; Program Management (Education); School-Based Mental Health; Teaching and Learning Systems)
Mercer, Sterett (Special education and disability; Educational psychology; curriculum-based measurement; academic intervention; written expression)
Perry, Nancy (motivation and self-regulated learning in young children; social perspectives on teaching and learning, reading and writing; accommodating individual difference in general education classrooms; learning disabilities; special education, Metacognition, motivation, and self-regulated learning in elementary school children Social perspectives on teaching and learning, including social cognitive and sociocultural theories, Teacher development, Individual differences, Learning disabilities)
Zebehazy, Kim (Assessment, Instructional Strategies, Problem Solving, Visual Impairment)
|2020||Dr. Yee examined how Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and advocates came together in a Community of Inquiry to support Indigenous (and all) students. Based in research on colonialism and decolonization, her study traced how diverse participants co-constructed practices to enact a shared vision of education based on respectful relationships.|
|2020||Dr. Fawcett developed a Family-Centred Positive Behaviour Support (FCPBS) approach for families of young children with Down syndrome and behavioural challenges, the first of its kind at the secondary tier. This program was effective in improving the children's behaviour, decreasing parental stress levels, and enriching family quality of life.|
|2020||Dr. Kester explored the treatment of anxiety among students with autism spectrum disorder in a school setting. She evaluated the effectiveness of a school-based cognitive behaviour therapy intervention delivered by educators in schools. Her findings will help to apply clinically-controlled research to real life settings such as schools.|
|2018||Dr. Frewing evaluated three methods for providing rewards when teaching new skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. All participants demonstrated a clear and stable preference for one method over the others. Children's preferences for teaching strategies may inform treatment selection, particularly when two or more strategies are similarly effective.|
|2018||Dr. Huo studied English language learning, particularly reading and spelling, among children in China. She found that English vocabulary and phonological awareness have causal influence on English word reading. Her work informs the practice of English literacy education for young learners in non-English speaking countries.|
|2018||Dr. Flis examined the effectiveness of a computer-based reading program when implemented as an intervention tool to a group of grade 1 students who are at risk for reading failure, and a group of students who speak another language other than English. She found that early literacy intervention delivered by technology is a successful practice for both groups of students.|
|2018||Dr. Pastrana examined two ways of making praise more valuable to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The results of this study have important implications for designing interventions for individuals that do not yet find social interactions reinforcing.|
|2018||Dr. Av-Gay examined the complexities of learning disabilities by interviewing students and parents. Findings revealed insights into lived experiences relating to their diagnosis; a lack of systemic early identification; and emotional difficulties. This research may contribute to the development of policy and practice on student assessment.|
|2018||Dr. Garforth examined the relationship between Chinese character reading and English literacy skills among students who had English as a second language and Chinese as their first language. She found that measures of English phonological awareness accounted for more of a relationship to English literacy skills than Chinese character reading did.|
|2017||Dr. Curle examined the transition from early intervention services to Kindergarten for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. She discovered that one of the main factors influencing the transition to school is the pattern of interactions between the individuals, groups, and institutions connected to the child.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
The Special Education area concerns the habilitation and education of students with exceptionalities, such as students with visual impairments, physical disabilities, emotional or behavioural disorders, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, and students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The program also includes a focus on gifted and talented students.