Joint Doctorate in Special Education

San Francisco State University (Graduate College Of Education) and the University Of California, Berkeley (Graduate School Of Education) jointly offer a PH.D. program in Special Education

History and Background

The Joint Doctoral (PhD) program between the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University began in 1967 and was the first such program approved in the state of California by the Joint Graduate Board.

The Joint PhD Program in Special Education resides in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley and in the Department of Special Education within the College of Education at San Francisco State University. Two Directors jointly administer the Joint Doctoral Program, one on each campus. The program meets the scholastic requirements of the Graduate Divisions of both institutions.

Members of the faculty from SFSU are primarily from Special Education, which represents multiple areas relating to individuals with disabilities. Faculty from related departments (e.g., Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies, Psychology, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Instructional Technologies, English, Psychology, Ethnic Studies, History, Women’s Studies, Social Work, Physical Therapy, Counseling) serve in various capacities in the joint doctoral program.

The majority of the Berkeley faculty comes from the Graduate School of Education and they include faculty from each of the areas of study (Cognition and Development; Education in Language, Literacy, Society and Culture; Policy, Organization, Measurement and Evaluation). In addition, faculty from several associated fields (e.g., Psychology, Public Health, Linguistics, Public Policy, Social Welfare, Anthropology) at UC Berkeley participate in the program.  The Executive Committee, in accordance with guidelines established by the Graduate Division and School of Education on both campuses and with the approval of the faculties, sets the requirements for admission, curriculum and degree requirements. The Co-Directors have the responsibility of serving as general advisors to doctoral students and working with the Executive Committee in the direct administration of the program.


The program is aimed at preparing high level leaders in research, teaching, administration, and supervision for the variety of professional needs facing children, youth, and adults with disabilities. It integrates the resources of the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University and provides an opportunity for students to combine theoretical interests with applied practices in a broad spectrum of specializations within Special Education.

Degree Offered

Students in the Joint Doctoral program pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). As described in the Handbook for Advanced Degree Students (Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley), the PhD degree is intended for individuals who wish to conduct original theory-based research on educational problems, and who intend to pursue careers in research and university-level teaching. Specific requirements relative to the PhD (including academic preparation, areas of specialization, coursework, prequalifying and qualifying examinations, and the dissertation) are described in the UCB Graduate School of Education.

In general, PhD students should be prepared for research leadership and the exploration of conceptual frontiers. The PhD dissertation must make an original contribution to the body of knowledge in Special Education. A student may be interested, for example, in the cognitive growth of children with learning disabilities, or the application of organization theory in the administration of Special Education programs.