Sep 23, 2023  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Computer Science, PhD

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  > Department of Computer Science  > Computer Science, PhD

The PhD degree program in Computer Science provides for a rigorous foundation in theoretical and applied computer science. Students obtain in-depth knowledge by satisfying a breadth course requirement intended to ensure broad knowledge of computer sciences as well as satisfy a depth requirement in the ability to conduct research to advance knowledge and application of Computer Sciences to diverse fields.

Our program places a strong emphasis on research and on graduates making novel contributions to Computer Science in the form of a dissertation and scholarly publications. Students pursuing the PhD degree are trained to become teachers, researchers, and technical leaders in industry, academia, or research labs.

Students will be prepared to be technical problem solvers, competent in the state of the art, and will master a particular aspect of Computer Science. They will be trained to identify and clearly formulate problems, to develop and analyze algorithmic solutions, and to direct research.

For more information, please visit the Computer Science, PhD program page.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the University  and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  admissions requirements, applicants are evaluated on their previous academic record, GPA, quality of schools from which degrees were obtained, statement of purpose, resume, and three letters of recommendation. GRE scores are optional. An applicant is expected to have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related field. If submitted, verbal, quantitative and analytical writing scores from the GRE are examined separately and are evaluated as one source of information in the total graduate application.

TOEFL or IELTS scores must be provided by applicants who did not earn a prior degree from a US institution or a country where English is the medium of instruction (see list here ). Visit International Students to learn more.

Admission to our graduate program is based on a competitive selection process. Meeting the minimum requirements published does not guarantee admission to our programs. Applicants will not be granted conditional admission.

Applicants can apply directly to the PhD program with a bachelor’s degree. Current UH Computer Science MS students who intend to pursue a UH Computer Science PhD are advised to submit the PhD application early and inform the Graduate Advisor of their intent.

Prerequisites and Deficiencies

Students admitted to the graduate program of the Computer Science department must have taken Calculus I, Calculus II and Linear Algebra before being admitted to the program. In addition, they are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in computer science. Level of proficiency is defined to mean either (a) having successfully passed an equivalent course, as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies, for each subject listed below, (b) complete the corresponding course with a grade of “B-” or better at the University of Houston, or (c) successfully pass a department placement exam in each of the required subjects.

  1. Equivalent Coursework - evaluation of equivalent coursework for each subject listed below will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies at the time of initial advising.
  2. Completion After Admission - upon entering the graduate program, students may remedy deficiencies by taking courses from the list below and securing at least a B- grade. Any course in which a grade of “B-” or better is not made must be repeated the following term. Each course can be taken a maximum of two times to obtain the required grade of “B-” or better.
  3. Department Placement Exam - A student must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a request to take department placement exams(s) prior to the first day of their first term. If approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, the exam(s) must be completed within the first five class days. The result of the department placement exam(s) will be reported by the tenth class day and included in the student’s academic file. If the student fails the department placement exam, the assigned required course must be taken no later than the term immediately following.

Courses taken to remedy deficiencies will not be counted in the total number of credit hours required for the graduate degree.

Remediation of deficiencies must be completed (a) within the first two long terms and (b) before a student will be allowed to enroll in the courses which are counted towards their degree. The only exception is the term in which the student will complete the deficiencies. In this situation, a student can enroll in courses required to remedy deficiencies concurrent with enrollment in graduate courses that will be applied towards the degree.

Courses that may be taken to remedy deficiencies in Computer Science:

Degree Requirements

Minimum credit hours required for this degree: 66.0

A student must complete a minimum of 66 credit hours subject to the following restrictions:

  • At least 30 credit hours of COSC graduate-level courses 6320-6397, 7300-7397, with the following exceptions:
    • Can include 1 hour of COSC 6110
    • Can include up to 3 hours of COSC 6398 Special Problems*
    • Can include up to 6 hours of non-COSC graduate courses*
    • Can include up to 9 hours of transfer graduate coursework following university Transfer Credit policy *

*Requires prior approval from the director of graduate studies via a Graduate & Professional Student Petition

  • At least 24 credit hours of Doctoral Research (COSC 8x98).
  • At least 3, but not more than 12 credit hours of dissertation (COSC 8x99), to be taken in the term of anticipated graduation.

In addition, students have to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Satisfactory completion of the core requirement.
  • Obtain a research advisor.
  • Satisfactory performance on the proposal defense (preliminary examination).
  • Maintain satisfactory progress.
  • Preparation of a written dissertation and satisfactory defense thereof. Details on preparation of a dissertation document can be found on the Thesis Guidelines page.
  • Publication of doctoral research.

Time Limitations

Students who enroll as doctoral candidates must complete their degree requirements within 10 years of the date of first enrollment with a doctoral degree objective. Failure to comply will result in the candidate being ineligible for a doctoral degree.

Doctoral students who fail to complete their dissertation within five years after completion of the comprehensive examination must retake the examination.

Refer to the Time Limitations of Completion of Degree Requirements  section of the Graduate Catalog.

Core Completion Period

The “core completion period” begins as soon as the student has accumulated 18 or more hours of credits applicable to a graduate degree (MS or PhD) in Computer Science. These include transferred credits, waived credits, and credits earned at UH. The core completion period applies to PhD students as well as MS students who later pursue the PhD program.

Full-time students must complete the core requirements in at most 2 consecutive long terms after the start of the core completion period. Part-time students (6 hours or less every term) must complete the core requirement in at most 4 consecutive long terms after the start of the core completion period. Failure to complete the core requirements with the required GPA and within the specified timeframe normally results in an MS student not being allowed to continue into the PhD program and a PhD student being dismissed from the PhD program.

Graduate Colloquium/Research Methods

All PhD students are required to complete the Graduate Colloquium (COSC 6110) or Research Methods in Computer Science (COSC 6321) within the first two years of enrollment.

Research Advisor

Students are urged to find a research advisor as early as possible. Full-time and part-time students should have a research advisor by the end of the second long term. Student may enroll in doctoral research hours if they have an advisor and have completed the core requirement.

Proposal Defense

A student must pass a proposal defense (also referred as the preliminary examination) administered by the student’s dissertation committee. The dissertation committee consists of the student’s research advisor and at least three (3) other members. At least one member of the committee must be from outside the department and the majority of members must be voting faculty of the Computer Science Department. More details on committee composition can be found here .

The proposal defense is open to the public and should be announced two weeks in advance. The purpose of the proposal defense is to evaluate and give feedback on the dissertation research of the student. The exact content of the examination is at the discretion of the dissertation committee. All faculty members in attendance as well as the committee members may ask the student questions related to the proposal or the student’s preparation for a PhD level research. The committee may have a closed session with the student at the end of the proposal defense. The committee will submit a written report to the Director of Graduate Studies concerning the student’s performance on the proposal defense and assign an overall evaluation of satisfactory (pass) or unsatisfactory (fail). A student in the PhD program becomes a PhD candidate upon a satisfactory proposal defense.

Full-time and part-time students must attempt the proposal defense no later than the end of the third long term after completing the core requirement. The proposal defense cannot be taken before fulfilling the core requirement. The proposal defense must be completed at least six months before dissertation defense.

At the proposal defense, a summary of the student’s academic performance, including the student’s previous degree(s), past work/research experience, GPA, core course performance and duration of study, should be presented to the committee in a closed session.

Details on how to announce the defense can be found on the Thesis Guidelines page.

Dissertation Defense

A candidate will be required to present her/his dissertation in a public defense. The dissertation defense should be scheduled at least six months after successfully passing the proposal defense. The dissertation committee decides the acceptability of the dissertation. Candidates are expected to publish results of their dissertation research prior to the dissertation defense.

The dissertation defense is open to the University community and the student must inform the department at least two weeks in advance so that it can be publicized. Details on how to announce the defense can be found on the Thesis Guidelines page.

Core Requirements

A student satisfies the core requirement by taking a set of four or more courses from the two lists below with a GPA of 3.40 or better and no grade less than B. Two courses must be from the Theory list and two from the Systems list. The Director of Graduate Studies may in exceptional cases waive at most one of the four courses based on similar courses taken at another university.

Academic Policies

Department Academic Policies

In addition to the university and college academic policies and scholastic standards outlined in the graduate catalog, students must comply academic policies set forth by the Department of Computer Science.

  • A student must maintain a GPA of 3.00 or better for all deficiencies (if assigned) and all graduate courses taken at the University of Houston.
  • No more than six hours of coursework outside computer science in related fields of science, engineering and business may be counted. All outside coursework must receive approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Satisfactory Progress

Ensuring that the PhD student gains broad knowledge in computer science and develops skills to produce research products is of utmost priority to the department. A student is expected to always maintain satisfactory progress towards these goals. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the student’s research advisor, will monitor and review the academic progress of each student.

To maintain satisfactory academic progress prior to completing the core course requirements, students should:

  • Fulfill the GPA and timing requirements for the core courses.
  • Establish a research advisor by the end of the second long term of entering the PhD program.
  • Attend the required number of department seminars (5 per term).

To maintain satisfactory academic progress after completing the core course requirements, students should participate in educational and research activities under the guidance of the research advisor with a goal to:

  • Produce research products such as publications, presentations, patents and software releases. It is recommended to work towards one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before the dissertation defense.
  • Attempt the proposal defense and receive a “satisfactory” or “pass” grade from the dissertation committee by the end of the third long term after completing the core course requirements.
  • Attend the required number of department seminars (5 per term).

A student who is evaluated as not making satisfactory progress on two consecutive reviews is normally removed from the PhD program.

A decision to remove a student from the PhD program for failure to successfully complete the core requirement within the time limitation or for two consecutive unsatisfactory reviews will be brought to the entire faculty for a vote.

Annual Review

Every PhD student must complete the formation of a dissertation committee no later than the end of the 2nd year in the program. Each student will be reviewed annually by the dissertation committee during a review meeting; the review is mandatory starting on the 3rd year. It is encouraged but not required to have the external member of the committee attend the review meetings. The review meeting should be integrated to the proposal defense in the year in which the proposal defense takes place, and it is not necessary in the year of the dissertation defense.

After meeting with the student, the dissertation committee will submit a “PhD Annual Review - Committee Evaluation Form” to the Director of Graduate Studies. The evaluation can be satisfactory “S”, unsatisfactory “U”, or needs improvement “NI”. If the student receives a “U” or “NI” grade, the student must be provided with a clear plan to return to a satisfactory status, and reviewed again in the next long semester. A subsequent evaluation of “NI” or “U” can result in removal of the program.


The PhD Annual Review - Self-Evaluation Form must be submitted by the student before the following deadlines:

  • Fall: October 31 (for students enrolled in the spring)
  • Spring: March 31 (for students enrolled in the fall)

The PhD Annual Review - Committee Evaluation Form must be submitted by the dissertation committee no later than the end of the Spring or Fall semester.