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!
Admission Information & Requirements
In order to apply to this program, the following components may be required.
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
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. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitve 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:
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:
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.
This program has not specified whether applicants should reach out to faculty members. Please review the program website for additional details.
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
Deadline to submit online application. No changes can be made to the application after submission.Transcript Deadline
Deadline to upload scans of official transcripts through the applicant portal in support of a submitted application. Information for accessing the applicant portal will be provided after submitting an online application for admission.Referee Deadline
Deadline for the referees identified in the application for admission to submit references. See Letters of Reference for more information.
September 2021 Intake
Application Open Date19 September 2020
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,698.56||$2,984.09|
|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)||$944.51 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $16,954.00 (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 2018 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $18,000 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 $18,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.
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 and Research Assistantships
Student service appointments are intended to help qualified graduate students meet the cost of their studies at the University. Student appointments may involve part-time duties in teaching, research, or other academic activities.
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)
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 (Behavioral Disorders in Children and Adolescents, Behavioral Problems, Learning Disorders in Children, Teaching and Learning Systems, Educational Counselling, Program Management (Education), Autism, Mental Health and Psychopathology in Children and Youth, School-Based Mental Health, Children and Youth with Special Needs)
Mercer, Sterett (Literacy Training, Learning Disabilities, curriculum-based measurement, academic intervention)
Mirenda, Pat (autism; developmental disability (mental retardation, etc.); positive behaviour support; augmentative communication (communication technology for people who are unable to speak), Autism, communication and behaviour challenges, developmental disabilities, augmentative and alternative communicaiton, positive behaviour support, inclusive education, literacy development)
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)
|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. 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. 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. 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. 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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|2017||Dr. Wilton examined the administrative factors that determine the workload for itinerant teachers of students with visual impairments. His findings will provide special education administrators with guidance to set itinerant teacher workloads so that the unique programming needs of students with visual impairments can be met.|
|2016||Dr. Norman studied the unique teacher-student relationship between itinerant teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing and their students. Her research identifies the role these teachers play in supporting the social and emotional development of deaf and hard of hearing students, and highlights itinerant teachers as key facilitators of inclusive practices in schools.|
|2014||Dr. Elfert designed, delivered, and evaluated the impact of a support group for 12 fathers of children with autism. Fathers found the group helpful, enjoyed sharing stories, and recommended it to other fathers. Her study provides information about the psychological experiences of fathers of children with autism, an under-researched population.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Further Program Information
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.