Procedures & Requirements for Graduation


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.

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.

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

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 examination up to two times: Students only need to retake the failed topics in the subsequent attempt. Students having any sponsorship via the advisor's research funding or departmental teaching should pass all topics by the end of the second year after admission to the program. Other PhD students should pass all topics by the end of the   third year after admission to the program. The advisor or the program director may request one additional year and one more time for a student to take the examination with a sound reason; for example, the student has made significant progress in research with good publication(s). The request needs the approval of the PhD-CS program committee.

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 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.

PhD students cannot enroll in more than 24 credit hours of dissertation prior to passing the comprehensive exam.  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.

Although publication is not the only criterion, generally, it is expected that a Ph.D. candidate at the dissertation defense stage has at least one significant article published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed sources, such as well-recognized international journals and highly-selective international conference proceedings. The department criterion defines a significant publication as having ALL three of these characteristics: 1) Multiple formal written reviews, 2) Publication in a venue with < 40% acceptance rate, and 3) Indexed in major library databases.   If a candidate's publications do not meet these criteria, the candidate's advisor can request the committee to also consider other justifiable criteria including grants, patents, major software packages in widespread use, etc. All those achievements should be largely based on the study and research during the degree work.

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 credit hours of regular courses at the 5000 level and above not including dissertation credit hours.

Time Limit for Completion of Degree

Individuals who are admitted as doctoral students normally are expected to complete all degree requirements within nine years from the date of the start of course work in the doctoral program. For students who fail to complete the degree in the nine-year period, the PhD - Computer Science Program Director must request an extension from 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. 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.