StudyQA — PhD: Special Needs Education — University of Stavanger


Special Needs Education

Study type:Part-time Languages: English
StudyQA ranking:2706 Duration:36 months

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The field of Special Needs Education has historically focused on learning and development conditions for children, adolescents and adults with special needs. The structure of the PhD programme in Special Needs Education at UiS seeks to go beyond the traditional division of work between Education and Special Needs Education through strengthening the scope of the subjects included in the Research Training Programme.

The PhD programme is linked to two special education centres: the Centre for Behavioural Research and the National Centre for Reading and also to the Inclusive Education Group of the Department of Education. This means that the PhD programme in Special Needs Education works in an area between the challenges related to specific needs in children, adolescents and adults on the one hand and perspectives based on the common arenas of the educational system, with focus on the students´ interaction and participation, on the other hand.

In Special Needs Education Research, a distinction is usually made between individual, relational and social/cultural methods of approach in understanding children, adolescents and adults with special needs and their learning/education. Individual methods of approach have been based on medically inspired views, with emphasis on diagnosis and treatment. Relational methods of approach place decisive emphasis on understanding disability in relation to the requirements, conditions and opportunities of the environment and the situation. Social/cultural methods of approach focus on culture and society as being decisive in understanding disability. All these perspectives are represented in the Special Needs Education Research at UiS.

The Special Needs Education research has been based on problems that are common to various disciplines. Interdisciplinary co-operation is therefore an important characteristic of the research activity. For many years, the University of Stavanger has played a leading role in Special Needs Education research into reading and writing difficulties and social and emotional problems. For example, research within the field of reading and writing difficulties unites linguistics, education, psychology and medicine. Research in the field of social and emotional problems studies various factors that are significant to children and adolescents´ behaviour and well-being: kindergarten and school related factors, contextual factors outside kindergarten and school, interaction between kindergarten/school and the home, school development and innovation work, development of teachers´ competence, etc.

Key aspects in the field of Inclusive Education are related to teaching - learning, education - curriculum and participation - democracy. The studies are based on the various common arenas in the field of education and focus on diversity and variation and on appreciating and taking care of each individual. Specific research projects relevant to development of Inclusive Education focus on children, adolescents and adults´ conditions for socialization, identity and belonging, for meaningful learning and knowledge development and for development of competence and authority. In the research activity, emphasis is placed on understanding including/excluding as simultaneous social processes. The object of the research is twofold: firstly, to understand inclusion processes and what helps to support such processes in the various learning arenas.

The research also involves gaining an insight into institutionalized marginalization and exclusion processes and how these may be reduced.
Specialist environments linked to the PhD programme at UiS have close ties with the field of practice in the kindergarten and the school system and the school psychological services (SPS). This provides good opportunities for implementation of doctorate work that has practical relevance. The environments represent a broad scientific background and will be able to give guidance in a wide variety of dissertations. Relevant problems in dissertation work may span from genetics and diagnosis, via studies on how contextual factors are significant in behavioural learning and education, to a critical spotlight on the field of Special Needs Education research.


The instruction component shall include the academic and methodical training required to carry out work on the dissertation.

The instruction component shall include courses amounting to a minimum of 30 credits and a maximum of 45 credits. At least 10 of these credits shall include the course(s) in philosophy of science and ethics on the relevant level. At least 20 credits shall be ordinary doctoral courses. The faculties may determine additional regulations for the contents of the instruction component.

The instruction component should be completed at the beginning of the study programme and must be approved before submission of the dissertation. The faculty may grant exemption from part of the instruction component in the event that the student has completed equivalent and approved instruction or courses at another unit or organization.

Instruction component for Special Needs Education

The instruction component must amount to at least 30 credits, divided as follows:
Philosophy of science (10 credits), research methods (10 credits, qualitative and quantitative) and subject-specific courses (10 credits).

To ensure a broad composition of the programme, at least three of the credits in the subject-specific component must be chosen among courses that are not directly related to the subject of the thesis. For students who are not working on a dissertation in Inclusive Education, the three-credit course in Inclusive Education is obligatory. The remaining seven credits in the subject-specific component may be chosen among subject-specific courses in the current curriculum. The candidate may attend courses at other institutions following an approval by the PhD committee. Four of the credits may be obtained through active participation at international conferences with presentations of papers that primarily present the student's own PhD project, in accordance with the supervisor.


Before you can apply for admission to one of the PhD programmes at the University of Stavanger, certain requirements must be fulfilled.

In order to be admitted to one of our PhD programmes, you need to secure your funding in advance or apply for this along with the application for admission. The most common source of funding is research fellow positions at UiS. These are advertised under "Job vacancies" at the University of Stavanger's web site. You may also apply for scholarships from external sources of funding, such as the Research Council of Norway or relevant commercial or industry companies.
You also need to fulfil the set requirements for previous education (in order to be admitted to a PhD programme applicants typically need to have a five year Master´s degree with an average grade weighted at B or better). Applicants must also write a good project description that falls within the subject area of one of our programmes.
Only applications signed by the applicant´s main supervisor will be considered in full. Applicants who have not found a supervisor at the time of application, but fulfil the remaining requirements for admission, may submit their application form as a preliminary application. If your project description falls within the subject area of one of our programmes, the research training secretariat will be happy to put you in contact with a relevant supervisor.
Applications without enclosed project description, certified documentation of previous relevant studies or a complete plan for funding, will normally be rejected.
There is no deadline for applications to the doctoral programmes. Applicants are admitted continuously.


PhD students who are accepted at one of the UiS PhD programmes can apply for mobility scholarships to finance research visits lasting from three to six months at acknowledged institutions abroad.

The mobility scheme includes all academic programmes at UiS, and the scholarship is calculated according to the Norwegian Research Councils rates for overseas research grants. The scholarship is intended to cover expenses in connection with getting established abroad, as well as additional expenditures. Travel expenses should be covered by the student´s financial resources.

PhD students who submit complete application forms are guaranteed funding for three months, but may apply for extra funding (se below) for extended stays up to six months, or visits shorter than three moths.

Additional funding

Applications for additional funding will be processed at the end of the budget year and are prioritized as follows:
1. Extended stays beyond three months or stays shorter than three months (for students who are unable to go abroad for three months due to family or other social commitments)
2. Application for incoming mobility to UiS (mainly for PhD students who are staying at an institution in a developing country that has a collaboration agreement with UiS)
3. Travel expenses (can only be applied for if your annual capital equipment (30 000 NOK) are insufficient and your travel methods are as cheap as possible).
The Doctoral Committee at the Faculty will consider equal applicants according to progress and relevance in the dissertation work.

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