Postgraduate study and research

Man practices sounds with tablet

Our graduates are highly employable as clinicians both in New Zealand and overseas. Postgraduate study also allows you to teach at a university, conduct research in a scientific laboratory or be an administrator. 

Some introductory information about our postgraduate programmes is available below. If you would like to know more information, please contact us and we'll be happy to help you.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programme

The main aim of the PhD programme is to provide students with the skills to conduct independent research at the highest level. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy comprises an advanced course of study and research, the results of which are presented in a thesis. The thesis is a systematic exposition of a piece of independent research carried out over the period of enrolment. It makes an original contribution to knowledge or understanding in the field of study and meets recognised international standards for such work.

The Department of Communication Disorders provides excellent facilities and resources for PhD students. These include research facilities in specific areas, library resources, office space and computer facilities. Our PhD students also receive excellent support from academic supervisors both within and, in some cases, outside the University of Canterbury who are leaders in their fields.

If you are interested in applying for the PhD, you should contact the member(s) of academic staff closest to your area of research interest. Details of the research interests of staff can be found on the Departmental website and in the UC Research directory, UC SPARK. Applicants should contact a potential supervisor directly to discuss their research ideas and determine whether suitable supervision is available. Applicants must identify a potential supervisor before submitting a formal application to enrol in the PhD. Please note that identifying a potential supervisor does not guarantee that your application will be successful.

Professor Maggie-Lee Huckabee and Dr Rebecca Kelly are responsible for oversight of the PhD programmes in the speech-language sciences and audiology/hearing science respectively. They are happy to answer general enquiries about the application or the programme and can help you identify a suitable research supervisor who will guide you through the development of your preliminary research proposal.

Applicants will normally have achieved a First or Second class honours undergraduate degree (or equivalent) or a Master’s degree (or equivalent). They must also satisfy all entry requirements of the University.

Doctoral students will work with their research mentor towards development of a thesis topic and the preparation of a formal thesis proposal. The thesis proposal must be approved by the Dean of Postgraduate Studies within six months of enrolment. Once the proposal has been approved, both the candidate and the topic are registered by the Postgraduate Office, which also formally appoints supervisors. Supervision usually involves a senior supervisor and one or more associate supervisors.

During the second six months of enrolment, the student will continue to develop the proposal. At 12 months post enrolment the student will undergo a confirmation process, which includes submission of an expanded proposal and an oral presentation.

There is no formal coursework required by the University, but students must enrol in either CMDS 790 (speech-language-dysphagia) or CMDS 795 (audiology) each year of their studies. Supervisors may require their students to enrol in other coursework as a condition of continuing in the programme (e.g., in cases where students lack formal coursework in statistics, research methods or other background subjects). PhD students are expected to be active participants in the activities of the chosen area of research. In particular, they are required to give seminars on their research work (normally one during the early phases and one towards the end) and attend Departmental research seminars. The Department is concerned with the professional development of PhD students and endeavours to make teaching, lecturing and outreach opportunities available where possible. 

The PhD degree involves a minimum of two years of full-time research. There is a maximum time limit of four years but the normal period is three to four years from the date of registration for full-time students. A part-time candidate has seven years. The thesis is read by two examiners, one of whom conducts an oral examination of the candidate with respect to the subject matter of the thesis and the general field of study to which it belongs.

Once the proposal has been formally accepted, progress reports are required by the University after six months, on the anniversary of the original enrolment and every twelve months thereafter.

The student should provide:

  • A summary of progress since the last report
  • An outline of the proposed programme for the next six months
  • An outline of any difficulties experienced in respect of supervision, resources or otherwise.

This is normally combined with a report from the supervisor on the student's progress, along with candidate's comments, and both are submitted via the Head of Department to the Dean of Postgraduate Studies. Non-compliance with the reporting regime could lead to a range of sanctions including termination of enrolment.

Normally, two individuals from outside of the University are invited to examine the thesis and the candidate, one from within New Zealand and one from overseas. Sometimes, both examiners will be from overseas if it is difficult to find someone in New Zealand. The supervisors recommend two external examiners to the Head of Department. The Head then forwards a recommendation to the Dean of Postgraduate Studies for approval. It is normal practice that the candidate is informed of whom the examiners might be before they are formally appointed. The senior supervisor also completes a form outlining the role he/she has played in supervising the thesis.

When the examiners’ reports are returned to the Postgraduate Office, an oral examination is scheduled and is normally conducted by one of the two examiners, with questions also supplied by the non-attending examiner.

The examination is normally chaired by a senior academic who is not an examiner. The examinee is allowed up to two persons present at the examination as observers. A recommendation is made following University guidelines, and outlined in the Final Joint Report of PhD Examiners Following the Oral Examination.

Need more information?

For enquiries about PhD study in Speech & Language Sciences and Disorders:

Maggie-Lee Huckabee

Professor of Communication Disorders
Communications Disorders
Internal Phone: 95124

For enquiries about PhD study in Audiology and Hearing Science:

Rebecca Kelly

Senior Lecturer
Communication Disorders Unit 1 Room 201
Internal Phone: 94519