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Ph.D. Special Education

The doctoral program in special education is designed to prepare leaders who understand that special educators should "anticipate rather than remediate," who provide for all students the best programs that can be derived from our current knowledge base, and who thus "raise education beyond the common level of mediocrity".*

We seek students who are idealists, realists, and scholars; who understand that leadership is neither seized nor bestowed; and who want to have direct impact on the lives of infants, children, and youth with disabilities.

The faculty in special education subscribes to a model of stewardship in doctoral preparation and accordingly passes on to its students the ability to:

  • Create change
  • Collaborate with colleagues in P-12 and higher education
  • Honor diversity in all its forms
  • Identify and implement evidence-based practice
  • Design and carry out research in Special Education
  • Contribute to the development of special education law and policy
  • Participate actively in the national discourse
  • Demonstrate skill in the arts of:
    • Pedagogy
    • Supervision
    • Technology
    • Scholarship
    • Grant writing
    • Individualization of instruction

Learn More About the Special Education Ph.D.

*Gilhool, T.K. (1989). The right to an effective education: From Brown to PL 94-142 and beyond. In D. Lipsky & A. Gartner (Eds.), Beyond separate education: Quality education for all (pp. 243-253). Baltimore. Brookes

Course Structure and Delivery

The doctoral program is composed of required courses in special education and research methods, electives, research tools, and requires the completion of a dissertation.

This program is available at the UNC main campus in Greeley (not currently accepting applications) or online via Extended Campus.


Doctoral Learners are guided through their program by their advisor (who usually serves as Research Chair for the dissertation) and a committee of faculty from special education and other disciplines. The Doctoral Comprehensive Performance Assessment Matrix is a capstone experience that demonstrates synthesis of the doctoral learner's knowledge of and experience with doctoral program themes of theory, pedagogy, research methodology, evidence-based practice, public policy and advocacy, and collaboration. At least one of these matrix activities serves as the Doctoral Written Comprehensive Examination, and the entire matrix is presented to the committee as part of the Oral Comprehensive Examination. The doctoral dissertation is defended by the Doctoral Learner in a committee meeting open to the campus community.

Interested in Applying?

View Admission Requirements and Application Process.