Communication Disorders


Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology Honours
Master of Audiology
Master of Science (in Speech and Language Sciences)
Master of Speech and Language Pathology
Doctor of Philosophy

Communication Disorders_student group


Speech–language therapists/pathologists are professionals educated in the study of human communication, how it develops and the many differences and difficulties that children and adults experience.

Speech–language therapists/pathologists work in preschools and schools with children and students who have difficulty communicating and learning. This includes supporting children who stutter, have autism or who have a voice disorder.

Speech–language therapists also work with infants born prematurely and provide services for adults who have lost the ability to communicate or swallow effectively due to stroke, degenerative disease, brain injury or cancer.

Why study Speech and Language Pathology at UC?

The Speech and Language Pathology programme at UC is New Zealand's most established, having trained a majority of the country's speech–language therapists/pathologists. The UC degree was the first in the country to be accredited by the New Zealand Speech–Language Therapists' Association (NZSTA), the organisation which sets quality standards for speech–language therapy courses in New Zealand.

A hands-on qualification, you will gain clinical experience working with clients of all ages. There are eight clinics on campus and you will also go on placement to speech–language therapy clinics at hospitals, schools and other facilities nationwide. There are also opportunities for overseas clinical placements.

The Department of Communication Disorders has 12 full-time academic staff and is a national resource centre for information and continuing professional education in communication sciences and disorders. Each year the department welcomes a number of distinguished scholars from around the world, including Erskine Fellows, who lecture and conduct collaborative research in the department.

Entry to the Intermediate Year of study (first-year) is open to all students eligible to enter to the University. The recommended preparation for the Intermediate programme is a science background to at least Year 13 and work experience, including visits to meet people with different speech and language abilities.

A good level of English and any prior knowledge of languages eg, te reo Māori, is also useful.


See all Communication Disorders courses

The Intermediate Year

The first year of the Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology Honours (BSLP(Hons)) is called the Intermediate Year. Entry to the professional years is limited and selection is made at the end of the Intermediate Year.

The Intermediate Year has four compulsory courses and four recommended courses. They may be taken in one full-time year of study or accumulated over more than one year. It may be possible to take some, but not all, components of the Intermediate Year at other universities – if you are intending to do this you should seek approval of your course of study from the College of Science Student Advisor.

The professional years

The one-year Intermediate programme is followed by three full-time years of specialised professional training – the professional years. Entry to the First Professional Year is limited (see below). In the professional years, students complete coursework covering a wide variety of topics in normal and disordered aspects of speech, language, swallowing and hearing. The academic coursework is taken in combination with fieldwork, which is an important component of the professional years.

Entry into the First Professional Year

Students are selected on the basis of academic merit (normally a B+ or better average) and fluency in spoken and written English. Relevant work experience with people who have communication disorders may also be considered when selection decisions are made.

Applications for entry for the First Professional Year close on 1 October. Application forms are available on the Communication Disorders website and intending applicants should contact the BSLP Programme Coordinator at least a month before the closing date. Late enrolments will be considered if places are still available.

If a student is unsuccessful in gaining a place in the First Professional year, all courses passed can normally be credited to another degree. The College of Science Student Advisor is available to advise students on their options.

What do the professional years look like?

In the First Professional Year (second year of study), students take courses in speech and language development and disorders, evidence-based practice, clinical linguistics and audiology. They are also introduced to the observation and assessment of individuals with communication disorders and the distinguishing characteristics of the major types of communication disorders.

In the Second Professional Year (third year of study), students continue studying different types of communication disorders, predominantly those of neurogenic origin, conduct applied research in clinical settings and gain practical experience with clients. They work with practising therapists and complete coursework in education and medical settings.

In the Third Professional Year (fourth year of study), more time is spent on research and taking responsibility for the assessment of clients and the planning, management and evaluation of therapy programmes.


Practical work is introduced from the second year of study. This fieldwork accounts for about 25% of the year's work in the second year, 30% in the third, and 50% in the final year. Students have the opportunity to undertake work with practising therapists and people of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of settings, including preschools, schools, hospitals, and clinics in Christchurch and throughout New Zealand.

Career opportunities

The speech–language therapy/pathology profession offers a range of career opportunities. Graduates are highly employable as clinicians both in New Zealand and overseas.

As a graduate of UC's BSLP(Hons) programme you will be able to work in a variety of settings. You can work with children who have autism or language delays in preschools and schools or with elderly stroke patients in a large hopsital or nursing home. You can be an entrepreneur, developing and marketing new communication devices and tests, or building your own private practice. With further postgraduate study you can teach at a university, conduct research in a scientific laboratory or be an administrator.

Perhaps best of all, you can combine several of these to establish a challenging and satisfying career which improves the quality of life for children and adults who experience communication difficulties.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Communication Disorders.

More information

Department of Communication Disorders

Phone +64 3 369 4827

See the Department's website for up-to-date location details.

Postal address
College of Science | Te Rāngai Pūtaiao
University of Canterbury | 
Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha  
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

Rebecca Macbeth

Rebecca Macbeth

'I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world...'

Kerstin Erfmann

Kerstin Erfmann

'The best thing for me is to see people recover and enjoy their life to the fullest again...'