Computer Science and Engineering Ph.D.


The Computer Science and Engineering Department offers a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree program. The normative time for the Ph.D. program is five years for a full-time student. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program come with financial support in the form of a combination of fellowship, teaching assistantship, and/or graduate research assistantships.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements*

Each student is required to take 58 credits as follows:

  • A core requirement must be met by taking CSE 200, CSE 201, CSE 210A, and CSE 220.

  • One course each from three different breadth categories for a total of three courses (15 credits)—see the Breadth Requirements webpage.

  • Up to 10 credits of the CSE 297 series, Independent Study or Research; or the CSE 299 series, Thesis Research.

  • All remaining courses must be regular, 5-credit graduate courses (not seminars). Courses that do not count toward the 58-credit requirement include CSE 296, and all courses numbered CSE 280, CSE 297, and CSE 299.

  • At most 10 credits can be from courses taught by departments other than CSE. The student must obtain their adviser’s authorization to take a course from outside of the Baskin School of Engineering.

  • Undergraduate courses do not count toward the 58-credit requirement.

  • Courses used to satisfy the core requirement must be taken for letter grade. All other courses must be taken for letter grade, except for courses numbered CSE 200, CSE 296, and all courses in the CSE 280, CSE 297, and CSE 299, and for up to two other regular courses (10 credits).

*This section was revised on 11/07/19.

Teaching Requirements

Each student is required to complete at least one quarter of teaching assistantship. This requirement can be met after advancement to candidacy. Certain exceptions may be permitted for those with extensive prior teaching experience or those who are not allowed to be employed due to visa regulations.

Qualifying Examination

A successful qualifying examination involves a student writing a research prospectus, a public oral presentation of the proposed research, evaluation of research prospectus and oral presentation by a qualifying examination committee that is approved by the Graduate Division, and an appointment of a reading committee for the dissertation (which may differ from the qualifying examination committee).

Post-Qualifying Requirements

To continue in the Ph.D. program, students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year. Students are advanced to candidacy after they have completed the course requirements, passed the qualifying examination, cleared all incompletes from their records, have an appointed dissertation reading committee, and paid the filing fee.

Transfer Credit

Up to three courses (15 credits) can be transferred from another institution with approval by the CSE graduate director.

Petitions should be submitted along with the transcript from the other institution or UCSC extension. For courses taken at other institutions, copies of the syllabi, exams, and other coursework should accompany the petition. Such petitions are not considered until the completion of at least one quarter at UCSC.



Each student writes a Ph.D. dissertation which must be submitted to the reading committee at least one month prior to the dissertation defense. The dissertation must show the results of in-depth research, be an original contribution of significant knowledge, and include material worthy of publication. Where appropriate, research internships with companies, government laboratories, or elsewhere are recognized (and may be required) as an integral part of the research leading to the dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate presents their research results in a public seminar sponsored by the dissertation supervisor. The seminar is followed by a defense of the dissertation to the public and the reading committee. The latter then decides whether the dissertation is acceptable or requires revision. Successful completion of the dissertation fulfills the final academic requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Academic Progress

Each year, the faculty reviews the progress of every student. Students not making adequate progress toward completion of degree requirements (see the Graduate Student Handbook for policy on satisfactory academic progress) are subject to dismissal from the program. Students with academic deficiencies may be required to take additional courses. Full-time students with no academic deficiencies are normally expected to complete the degree requirements at the rate of at least two courses per quarter. Full-time CSE students must complete CSE 201, CSE 220, and CSE 210A within two years and normally must complete all course requirements within three years.

Ph.D. students who have not advanced to candidacy by the end of their third year (nine quarters) will be recommended for academic probation, and may be subject to dismissal from the program if not advanced to candidacy by the end of their fourth year (12 quarters).

Students receiving two or more unsatisfactory grades (U or letter grade below B-) in the School of Engineering (SoE) courses are not making adequate progress and will be recommended for academic probation for the following three quarters of registered enrollment. Withdrawing or taking a leave of absence does not count as enrollment. Part-time enrollment is counted as a half quarter of enrollment.

Should any CSE graduate student fail a School of Engineering course while on probation, the CSE Department may request the graduate dean to dismiss that student from the graduate program. If after being removed from probation, the student again fails a School of Engineering course, he or she will return immediately to academic probation.

Graduate students experiencing circumstances or difficulties that impact their academic performance should contact their faculty adviser and the graduate director immediately. Students may appeal their dismissal.