Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Admission Requirements and Procedures

To be admitted, students must have:  

  1. A bachelor's degree or a research (thesis-based) Master's degree in Computer Science, or a closely related discipline. Students without a thesis-based Master's degree are admitted to the post-Bachelor PhD program.
  2. A GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.3.
  3. One or more indicators of English proficiency.
  4. A prospective supervisor: a faculty member (i.e. a professor) who is willing to accept you as a student and be your supervisor.

We assess an individual’s base knowledge in computing relative to our third year undergraduate Bachelor of Computer Science core courses (CSCI 3110, CSCI 3120, CSCI 3130, CSCI 3137, and CSCI 3171).  Applicants who demonstrate minor deficiencies in this knowledge base will have the corresponding undergraduate courses added as an ancillary requirement of their PhD program.

In practice, each faculty member can only supervise a small number of students, so admission is highly competitive. Barely meeting the above requirements is typically insufficient for acceptance. An ideal applicant would have:

  • Evidence of research aptitude, such as one or more peer-reviewed publications (or posters or presentations) in good conferences, journals or workshops. Publications in predatory journals do not count. 
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.7 out of 4.3
  • A first class or honours degree or equivalent
  • Strong reference letters from professors who have themselves published high-quality research in computer science or related fields
  • A strong CV with some industry or volunteer experience
  • A well thought out research proposal that fits with your prospective supervisor's available projects 

Students in the MCSc (Thesis) program who perform exceptionally well may transfer to the doctoral program within their first 15 months (subject to approval of the Graduate committee and the Faculty of Graduate Studies).

Only complete applications that have been submitted by the appropriate deadline will be considered. A completed application includes:

  • An application to the university Registrar’s Office with the application fee paid
  • A current CV
  • A research proposal
  • 2 letters of reference
  • An acceptable English language proficiency result (if applicable)
  • Unofficial transcripts for each previous academic program in which you have participated. 

Applications that remain incomplete for more than 3 months from the application submission date may be closed. 

For further information, email 


Program Structure

The PhD program is a full-time program of study. The PhD program uses a program fee for tuition. The program typically takes 4-6 years to complete. 

Course Requirements

In addition to any undergraduate courses assigned at the time of admission, PhD students are required to complete graduate courses selected in consultation with their supervisor and their supervisory committee. PhD students entering directly from a bachelor degree must complete 24 credit hours of computer science graduate courses at the 6000-level or above. Students entering after completing graduate courses as part of a masters program may apply to the faculty to have the overall course requirements reduced. Post-masters PhD students with substantially relevant prior coursework will typically be required to complete 6 to 12 credit hours of additional coursework at the PHD level.

PhD students entering directly from a bachelor degree can count at most 6 credit hours of directed studies courses towards their program. PhD students entering from a maters program can count at most 3 credit hours of directed studies courses towards their program.

After completing their course work, PhD students register in CSCI 7900 (directed doctoral research project) every semester until passing their Research Aptitude Defence, after which PhD candidates register for CSCI 9530 (doctoral thesis) until they successfully defend their thesis. 

All PhD students must enrol in REGN 9999 every term to continue their program of studies. PhD students are also required to take the graduate seminar course (CSCI 6999) every term until they pass the course (typically in six terms).  

Research Aptitude Defence

All PhD Students must complete and pass a research aptitude defence (RAD). The expected completion time is their 5th (post-masters PhD) or 7th (post-bachelor PhD) semester. The RAD consists of a research report, presentation, and oral exam. A student who does not pass the RAD on the first attempt will be offered a re-examination within three months. Students who fail their re-examination will be dismissed from the PhD program. 

Thesis Proposal Defence

All PhD students must submit and defend a thesis proposal. The expected completion time for the thesis proposal defence is 3 semesters after the completion of their RAD, so their 8th (post-Masters PhD) or 10th (post-Bachelor PhD) semester. The thesis proposal is a detailed report of the work to be undertaken for the thesis. The thesis proposal defence consists of a research report, a 30-minute presentation, and an oral exam. A student who does not pass the thesis proposal defence on the first attempt will be offered a re-examination within three months. PhD students who fail their re-examination will be dismissed from the PhD program. 

Thesis Defence

All PhD candidates must complete and defend a thesis pursuant to regulations set by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The thesis must demonstrate a significant, scholarly contribution worthy of a PhD. Post-Masters PhD candidates are expected to defend their thesis at the end of their fourth year while Post-bachelor PhD candidates are expected to defend at the end of their fifth year. Actual completion times vary based on each student's individual circumstances. 

Award of Degree

A candidate will only be awarded the PhD degree once they have satisfied all the program requirements.