Bachelor of Arts - New Zealand Sign Language & Deaf Studies

Watch: Deaf health stories

The "Deaf health stories" project (2017) explores the experiences of Deaf New Zealanders in accessing healthcare and health information. 40 Deaf people from around New Zealand shared their stories about barriers in this setting as well as strategies they have used in advocating for their right to access information, communication, and make informed decisions. This video shows some of the main themes found across the stories, as told by participants themselves. The project was funded by the New Zealand Sign Language Fund.

Researchers: George Major, Lynette Pivac & Susie Ovens

People who understand and can work constructively with the Deaf community are in high demand. AUT is the only university in New Zealand where you can complete a Bachelor of Arts with a New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and Deaf Studies major.

Our team of lecturers includes some of the most highly regarded people in their field. AUT’s close relationship with the Deaf community offers students the opportunity to learn through immersion in the culture.

  • Learn advanced NZSL skills that provide communication access to the Deaf community.
  • This degree is ideal for people who want to work in the area of community based services or Deaf education.
  • Become involved in the NZ Deaf community and culture.
  • Choose to further language acquisition, learn about the interpreting profession, or learn about intercultural competence.
  • The programme was developed with input from Deaf Aotearoa, Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ) and other industry organisations.

Entry requirements

Career opportunities

  • Professionals working directly with Deaf clients and colleagues.
  • Professionals requiring Deaf cultural knowledge, eg. teachers, health educators, mental health experts, counsellors.

Find out more about your post-study career opportunities in this guide pdf icon

Industry connections

Professional accreditation — industry organisations that recognise this programme:

  • Sign Language Interpreting Association of New Zealand
  • New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters
  • Interpreter booking agencies New Zealand-wide
  • Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kelston Deaf Education Centre
  • Van Asch Deaf Education Centre
  • Tertiary Education Institutions New Zealand-wide
Organisations where students have completed work experience:
  • Tertiary education institutions New Zealand-wide
  • Interpreter booking agencies New Zealand-wide.

Structure and content

The first year focuses on the development of receptive and expressive fluency in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), and the study of the Deaf community and culture.

In the second and third years students can either continue with further language acquisition, learn about the interpreting profession, or choose papers related to intercultural competence.

Along with practicum experience opportunities, qualified NZSL – English interpreting practitioners attend panel discussions, take on guest lecturer roles and provide tutoring and support for students.


Throughout the three years of the BA, students take core papers that provide the necessary skills in writing, research and IT capability to prepare them for academic work and their working life. For a summary of the BA degree see the Bachelor of Arts overview

Year 1 (compulsory) papers
NZSL501 New Zealand Sign Language I
NZSL502 Deaf community and culture I
NZSL601 New Zealand Sign Language II
NZSL602 Deaf community and culture II

Core papers
CLSY602 Aotearoa New Zealand Culture and Society
COMM570 Academic Communication
COMM600 iCommunicate
COMM610 iReflect
COMM700 iResearch
SOSC581 Research and Analysis
TIKA503 Ki te Whaiao: Maori Culture and Society

Year 2 and 3 papers
CLSY502 Intercultural Competence
CLSY601 Intercultural Competence in a Global World
CLSY703 Cooperative Education
ENGL500 Contemporary Language Studies
NZSL603 New Zealand Sign Language III
NZSL700 BA Special Topic [Deaf Studies]
NZSL701 New Zealand Sign Language IV
NZSL702 Current Issues in the Deaf World
NZSL703 Comparative Analysis of English and NZSL
SOSC780 Multicultural Communities
TRIN603 Theory and Practice of Interpreting

Additional papers
NZSL511 New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Culture 1A
NZSL512 New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Culture 1B

Last updated: 11-May-2017 1.05pm

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.