PECS Procedures & Requirements for Graduation

The course requirements are outlined on the following page: Program Info

Provisional Status

After completing the noted provisional requirements, the provisional student will be considered for regular admission. If admission is denied at this time, the student will be dismissed from the program. Recommendation for change from provisional status to regular degree status will be based on grades received in all courses taken during provisional status. Credit earned while in provisional status will count towards the Ph.D. if and when the student moves from provisional to regular status.

Tansfer Credit

A maximum of 9 credit hours of relevant graduate course work may be transferred from other accredited universities. This includes courses taken at UCCS before the student is accepted into the Ph.D. program. Only courses at the graduate level that have not been applied to another degree, that were taken during the previous five years, and in which the student has received a grade of B or above are eligible for transfer. None of the credit hours of dissertation work may be transferred. The PhD Program Director and the Chair of the Department must approve all transfers.

Degree Requirements

A maximum of 12 credit hours of course work may be taken outside the computer science department if approved as part of the plan of study by the student's Ph.D. Advisory Committee. No more than 15 credit hours of dissertation can be taken prior to the semester in which the Comprehensive Examination is passed.

Plan of Study

A Ph.D. plan of study is a document that lists the courses that a student will take to fulfill degree requirements. It also lists course deficiencies and transferred courses. A student must develop a plan of study by the end of the first semester after the semester in which the written qualifying examination is passed or waived. The plan is developed with the assistance of the student's Advisory Committee, and must be approved and signed by the student's advisor. Any subsequent changes of the plan must be approved by the student's advisor.

Advisory Committee

Once the written qualifying exam has been successfully completed, the advisory committee will be formed. The advisory committee shall be formed early in the dissertation research so that the committee can support the research. The student will select a dissertation advisor from the graduate faculty as approved by the home department. The dissertation advisor will assume the role of the academic advisor and the advisor for the dissertation research. The student and dissertation advisor will then form the advisory committee subject to the following requirements:

  • The advisory committee will consist of 5 members. Three of the members must be from the home department with at least one member of the committee being from outside the home department.
  • A maximum of two members from outside the college of EAS may serve on the committee. They must be members of the graduate faculty.
  • The committee should reflect the focus area of the dissertation work and be able to support and evaluate the students work.
  • The student and advisor will propose the committee to the DGSC and the PGC for approval.


Advisory Committee Authority: Subject to the requirements for the PGC, the committee is fully responsible for all aspects of the student's academic program, research and dissertation.


Satisfactory performance of the student is judged not only by course grades and dissertation credit, but also by performance on a series of examinations described below.

Qualifying Examination The qualifying examination consists of two parts, one oral examination and one written examination.

The oral qualifying  examination is an oral presentation with a written report that surveys the literature in the planned research area that a student may pursue. A few example papers, recommended by the PhD program committee will be posted and available to students for reference. The examining committee will be organized by the advisor if identified by the student, or by the program director if the advisor has not been chosen by the student. The examining committee consists of three faculty members from the host department.

The topic of the exam will be determined by the student's advisor in consultation with the examining committee. If the student does not have an advisor at the moment, the topic will be determined by the PhD program committee.

A student, if having any sponsorship via the advisor's research funding or departmental teaching, should pass the oral qualifying exam by the end of the first year after enrolling the program. Other PhD students should pass the oral qualifying exam by the end of the second year after enrolling the program. The advisor or the program director may request an extension of one additional year and one more time for a student to take the exam.

Waiver to the oral qualifying exam will be given if a student, as the first author, has one paper published or accepted for publication at a peer-reviewed international journal, or at a technical conference with selection rate <=40%.  

The written examination for the Computer Science focus area consists of four required topics: Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, Automata, and Algorithms.

The examination takes place twice a year for all students in May and December.

A student can take the examinations up to two times, and should pass all topics within the first three years after admission to the program. The advisor or the program director may request an extension of one additional year and one more time for a student to take the examination. Students only need to retake a failed area of the written examination, not all areas.

Syllabi and sample questions for the written exam are available here (Syllabi, Samples) for study purposes.

Waiver to the written qualifying examination will be given if the student has passed the required courses (CS 5200, CS 5500, CS 5700 and CS 5720) of the four qualifying examination topics at UCCS with a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or above. The program committee will decide if the grade of a transferred class can be used. Courses cannot be retaken to increase the GPA in order to qualify for the waiver.

Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the comprehensive examination, which must be taken before more than 15 credit hours of dissertation is earned, is to ensure that the student possesses the following:

  • Sufficient grasp of the fundamentals of the chosen dissertation area to begin research, normally achieved through a thorough study of the current literature on the topic.
  • Ability to conduct research.
  • Ability to exchange ideas and information with members of the Advisory Committee.


Comprehension of existing literature and course material pertinent to the dissertation research, as well as the reasonableness of the unknown or undeveloped concepts that the student proposes, will be assessed by the Advisory Committee. The responsibility of the Advisory Committee is to review the research proposal and the qualifications of the student to complete the research successfully. If the research and the approach are found to be significant and appropriate and the student is judged capable of completing the research, the Advisory Committee will approve the research direction. If the Advisory Committee does not find the student ready to begin dissertation research, it must suggest further preparation by the student and plan on a subsequent comprehensive examination.

A passing grade in the examination is given if at least four of the five members of the Committee, including the student's advisor, vote affirmatively.

Final Examination (Dissertation Defense)

The dissertation must be based on original investigation. It must demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgment, as well as a familiarity with the tools and methods of research. It must be written on the subject approved in the comprehensive examination.

After the dissertation has been completed, a final exam on the dissertation and related topics is conducted. This exam, which is conducted by the Advisory Committee, is oral and is open to anyone who wants to observe. More than one negative vote by members of the Advisory Committee disqualifies the candidate in the final exam. In case of failure, the final examination may be retaken after a period of time determined by the Advisory Committee.

Residency Requirement

The minimum residency requirement is six semesters for students entering with a Bachelor's Degree and four semesters for students entering with a Master's Degree. At least two semesters must be consecutive in one academic year.

Time Limit for Completion of Degree

Individuals who are admitted as doctoral students normally are expected to complete all degree requirements within six years from the date of the start of course work in the doctoral program. For students who fail to complete the degree in the six-year period, the Department must file an annual statement with the Graduate Dean giving the reasons why the Program Director believes that the student is making adequate progress and should be allowed to continue in the program. This request must be signed by three members of the graduate faculty who serve on the student's Advisory Committee. If the Graduate Dean approves this statement, the students may continue his/her studies for one additional year.

For additional information, please contact the Computer Science Department.