PhD program

Breadth requirements

The Department of Computer Science believes that a PhD degree candidate must show a firm grasp of the overall field of computer science. The PhD breadth requirement ensures that this goal is fulfilled by taking advanced courses in a broad range of categories and areas.

In order to define the breadth requirements, three major categories are identified within computer science: systems, theory and applications. Each category is subdivided into areas that represent a range of the fields of computer science, as given in the table below:




Software engineering

Design and analysis of algorithms


Programming languages

Scientific computing

Artificial intelligence

Hardware and software systems

Complexity theory


Networks and Distributed systems

Logic and discrete mathematics

Graphics and user interfaces

Areas not listed above may be acceptable if documented and approved by the supervisory committee. It is up to the student to justify which category the course should be classified in and its value to the academic program. For example, the area of “Databases” might fit entirely the “Applications” category, or it may be considered as an area in either the “Theory” or “Systems” category, depending on the academic content being evaluated. Each category must be covered by at least one of the graduate courses, but no more than one category can be covered by only one course. Thus a distribution of five courses in one category and one course for each of the two remaining categories is not acceptable.

Normally the breadth requirement is fulfilled by courses in the appropriate areas and categories but other verifiable experience may be acceptable at the discretion of the CSc Graduate Committee.

Timeline for evaluation and completion of breadth requirements

The breadth requirements should be completed as early as convenient in the program.

By the end of the first term: The student, in collaboration with the supervisor, prepares a breadth document detailing relevant past courses and future plans for graduate courses.

The document should include:

  • Courses or equivalent (including theses) which can be used to fulfill part of the breadth requirement. Include at least seven courses (equivalent at UVic to 10.5 units). Five of them must be graduate courses. Two of them can be 4th year undergraduate courses as you may be allowed to make arrangements to upgrade a previous 4XX level course to a graduate level course. Up to two relevant courses outside of CSc may be used, subject to approval by the student's supervisory committee and the CSc Graduate Committee. The minimum grade required for each course is the equivalent of a B grade.
  • A proposed program of study which the student intends to complete in order to fulfill the remaining part of the breadth requirement.
  • A preliminary schedule of when courses will be taken.

Breadth Requirements Template

By the end of the second term: The document is submitted for evaluation by the CSc Graduate Committee at the next available meeting. The student must provide sufficient evidence that a course (or other experience) listed fulfills an area requirement so the CSc Graduate Committee can determine a possible equivalence of the courses used to fulfill the requirement when compared to known courses at UVic. Pertinent information includes course syllabi, textbooks used, descriptions of prerequisites or co-requisites, evaluation from the instructor, and copies of relevant entries from university calendars. The CSc Graduate Committee, through the Graduate Advisor, may ask the student for more information and will consult with experts in the department as it deems appropriate. The Graduate Committee will be the final arbiter of whether courses taken and marks obtained satisfy the requirement.

The Graduate Studies Committee may make an exception to the above time constraints for students in special situations, after a written request is received, together with the supervisor’s support.


Candidacy examination (CSC 693)

The candidacy examination is a requirement of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for every PhD program at UVic. The main purpose of the candidacy examination is to test the student’s understanding of material considered essential to completion of a PhD and the student’s competence to do research that will culminate in the PhD dissertation. There are a number of other objectives to be considered when preparing for the candidacy Examination:

Please review the Department PhD Regulations and Procedures  for detailed information.

Completion of the candidacy examination

Each student must pass CSC 693 within two years registration as a provisional doctoral student and at least six months before the PhD dissertation is defended in an oral exam. A PhD student should be registered in CSC 693 from the start of the program. At any given time in the program, a PhD student should be typically registered in either CSC 693 or CSC 699, but not both.

It is the responsibility of the student and of the academic supervisor to make sure that all evaluation aspects are properly integrated in the program. This implies that, in all cases, constructive feedback is collected and actions for future research is discussed and planned accordingly.

Please review the Department PhD Regulations and Procedures  for detailed information about the process.

PhD dissertation and oral examination (CSC 699)

The Faculty of Graduate Studies states the following guidelines in the Graduate Academic Calendar regarding an acceptable dissertation for a successful PhD program:

The doctoral dissertation must embody original work and constitute a significant contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s field of study. It should contain evidence of broad knowledge of the relevant literature, and should demonstrate a critical understanding of the works of scholars closely related to the subject of the dissertation. Material embodied in the dissertation should, in the opinion of scholars in the field, merit publication.

The general form and style of dissertations may differ from department to department, but all dissertations shall be presented in a form which constitutes an integrated submission. The dissertation may include materials already published by the candidate, whether alone or in conjunction with others. Previously published materials must be fully integrated into the dissertation, while at the same time distinguishing the student’s own work from the work of other researchers. At the final oral examination, the doctoral candidate is responsible for the entire content of the dissertation. This includes those portions of co-authored papers which comprise part of the dissertation.

The student will give an oral exam of the dissertation in accordance with the departmental and university regulations. Upon successful completion of the exam and all other departmental and university requirements, the student will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Finishing your degree? See degree completion tasks to complete leading up to your oral exam.

PhD examining committee

This consists of the supervisory committee, a chair appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies and one other external examiner from outside the university. External examiners are recommended by the supervisor to the Dean of Graduate Studies and are appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The individual must be an arm’s-length authority in the field of research being examined. The supervisor (co-supervisors) must complete the form from the Graduate Studies' website: External Examiner’s Confirmation of Arm’s-Length Status.  As well, a current CV of the external examiner must be included with the form.

PhD annual progress reports

The purpose of the annual progress report is to support your successful progress through the PhD program. The annual progress report is a constructive tool that reviews your accomplishments over a 12-month period to help you move forward in your program successfully. Your achievements are acknowledged, possible impediments are examined, and actions to overcome any impediments are determined and agreed upon. The annual progress report must be compiled and submitted at least once in every 12 month period of a graduate program. The expected submission date is August 1 of each year. Failure to submit a progress report may result in you being unable to register the following term and reported by your graduate advisor to the chair of the department.  

Your supervisor is responsible for providing regular reports to evaluate progress in the graduate program. The annual progress report is a requirement of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and cannot be waived by any department. However, its administration is determined by individual departments.  Please refer to our Graduate resources page for the annual progress report form for directions on how to submit your report.