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Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Degree General Requirements

To earn a Ph.D. degree, a student must satisfy a minimum of 90 graduate-level credits beyond the bachelor's degree. Up to 30 credits from a prior master's degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering taken either at the University of Florida or from another accredited institution may be transferred and counted towards the Ph.D. degree. Students must apply for the credit transfer during their first term of enrollment. Approval by the graduate school is necessary for the credit transfer. Beyond the first 30 credits counted toward the Ph.D. degree, students must complete at least 30 credits at the University of Florida campus. Additionally, students must satisfy the following requirements before earning the degree:

  • Satisfy the CISE graduate-level course and GPA requirements.
  • Pass the written and oral qualifying examinations.
  • Pass the admission to candidacy examination (defend a dissertation proposal).
  • Satisfy the minimum number of seminar credits.
  • Write and successfully defend a Ph.D. dissertation.

Ph.D. Supervision

Every entering Ph.D. graduate student must attend the New Graduate Student Orientation, usually given right before or at the beginning of Fall and Spring semesters.

The student must form a supervisory committee no later than the end of the second semester of enrollment. The supervisory committee consists of at least 4 Graduate Faculty members. The chairperson of this committee must be a Graduate Faculty member in CISE. At least three members of the committee must be from CISE and at least one from outside CISE as an external member.

An annual evaluation of the research progress/potential of each Ph.D. student will be performed by the Graduate Affairs Committee in conjunction with the chair of the student's supervisory committee. This evaluation will be done at the end of the Spring semester. Copies of this evaluation and of the student comments are placed in the student's academic file. The student and the supervisory committee chair receives notice after the student has been in the CISE graduate program for 5 years without advancing to candidacy.  Proper actions and close monitoring will take place afterwards to ensure that the students are making progress towards the Ph. D. degree.

Ph.D. Course and GPA Requirement

To successfully complete a Ph.D. degree, students must satisfy the following course and GPA requirements.

Core course requirement: Students who have completed a master's degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering from another university may petition to have courses which had been taken for their prior Master's degree count towards the Ph.D. core course requirement. Such petitions will be accepted only after the Graduate Affairs Committee has determined that the outside course is similar in rigor and in scope to the equivalent course offered by the CISE Department (see "Establishing Equivalencies for Core Courses" below).

  • Computer Systems: Select 2 from the following 4 courses
  • Theory: Select 2 from the following 3 courses

Other course requirements:

  • For students without a prior master's degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering: (View Example)
    • 24 credits of CISE graduate-level courses, exclude CIS 6905, 6910, 6940, 7979, 7980; CIS 6971 or 6935 may account for 3 credits for thesis-option CISE master's.
    • A minimum of 3 credits of CIS 7980 Research for Doctoral Dissertation.
    • Other graduate-level courses including any research credits are at the discretion of the student and the students' supervisory committee chair.
  • For students with a prior master's degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering: (View Example)
    • 6 credits of CISE graduate-level courses, exclude CIS 6905, 6910, 6940, 7979, 7980; CIS 6971 may account for 3 credits for thesis-option CISE master's. Note that the required CISE graduate-level credits increases accordingly to compensate any waived core course credits.
    • A minimum of 3 credits of CIS 7980 Research for Doctoral Dissertation.
    • Other graduate-level courses including any research credits are at the discretion of the student and the student's supervisory committee chair.

GPA requirement:

  • According to the Graduate School rule, students must maintain a 3.0 overall GPA, as well as a cumulative 3.0 GPA for all courses taken from CISE. In addition, the CISE core course requirements are such that each student can have at most one core course with a grade below "B" ("B-", "C+", or "C").
  • Ph.D. students are expected to maintain a 3.4 GPA to be considered in "good standing".

Establishing Equivalencies for Core Courses

If you believe that you have taken a course, including undergraduate coursework, that is equivalent to a graduate-level core course in our department, you will need to:

  • Obtain a copy of your complete final transcript from your prior institution. 
  • Prepare a copy of the course syllabus and catalog description of the equivalent course as well as any supporting material such as exams, projects, and homework.
  • Bring these items and a completed Equivalency Form to the instructor who teaches the core course for an equivalency decision.
  • Return the completed Equivalency Form to the Graduate Academic Advisor.

Any core course that is waived will count toward the three core courses required to take the qualifying exam, and will be counted as a neutral grade toward the required 3.4 core GPA for taking the Ph.D. qualifying exam.

NOTE:  The equivalency process differs from the process of either transferring your degree or transferring credits toward your degree.  The transfer of credit process may be initiated with the grad advisor after the third week of classes.

Seminar Requirement for Ph.D. Students

Full-time, on-campus Ph.D. students must successfully complete 3 credits of CIS 6935 (Graduate Seminar) before graduation. The course awards one credit on an S/U basis and may be taken only once each semester. Off-campus Ph.D. students through distance learning are exempt from the seminar requirement.

Ph.D. students are not expected to register for the seminar course in their first two semesters, when most students take a full load of regular 3-credit courses. The 1-credit seminar course can accompany CIS 7979 (Advanced Research) in later semesters, adjusting the total credits to satisfy the required semester credit load.

The instructor for this course will make all decisions in selecting eligible seminars and setting the minimum number of attendances which will constitute a satisfactory grade. All approved seminars, department colloquium talks, and Ph.D. dissertation defenses are qualified. Other talks may also be included based on recommendations from faculty.

Qualifying Exam Area Survey Evaluation

The exam uses a survey covering the literature of an area in computing. This could be in the student’s dissertation area or a general area of computing. The student, advisor, and the student's Ph.D. committee members determine (and approve) the set of papers. The external Ph.D. committee member is not required to participate in this process. The student should be aware that merely summarizing a set of papers is not enough to count as a Ph.D. survey. Rather, the write-up should include clear identification of the main research problems in the field and the main suggested solutions (with their advantages and disadvantages). In the process, the student needs to also compare/contrast his/her survey with existing surveys in the field (if such surveys exist in a similar format).   

**Please see link for Qualifying Exam Supervisory Committee Form**

Steps to Completing Qualifying Exam Report Form:

Note: This is a writable PDF - Please type all information

  1. Student needs to complete: Last Name, First Name, M.I., UFID and Term of First Enrollment
  2. Student enters the faculty information; Chair, Co-Chair, Members, etc.

** For Term of First Enrollment, if you are unsure review your profile in GIMS or contact Adrienne Cook at alcook@ufl.edu**

Process Details:

1.The student must get the approval of the advisor and the advisory committee to take the exam. Once that is done, the student must inform the graduate affairs committee of the intent to take the qualifiers exam no later than one month before the actual proposed survey submission date. This is to give the committee adequate time to discuss the list of papers, and other procedures. Please refer to the Qualifying Exam Flowchart

2. The student will be assigned a list of papers and topics for the area survey paper under the direction of the student's advisor. The advisor may construct the list, or may require the student to propose the list. The list must be approved (in writing or via email) by all participating members of the committee. The list cannot include papers by the student (such papers can be included as supporting documents along with the student’s CV).

The number of papers can vary depending on the student's research area. The vast majority (if not all) of the papers must be peer-reviewed reputable publications (e.g., IEEE or ACM conferences or journals, or similar quality). Suggested number of papers is between 30 – 100.

3. The student will write an original area survey paper under the direction of their advisor and Ph.D. committee..

a. None of the advising committee members (including the advisor) can add text. They can only recommend modifications/edits.

b. The survey should be prepared in IEEE Journal format.

c. The suggested length of the paper, not including references, is 15 to 20 pages. The decision as to appropriate length is left up to each committee 

d. Unless direct quotations of cited sources are used and properly attributed, the entire paper must be in the student's own words. Plagiarism will be grounds for dismissal from the Ph.D. program. 


4. Submission of materials: The following materials must be submitted to the CISE committee members for review/evaluation, during (and no later than) the time window agreed upon earlier (as explained above in the first step):

a. Area survey paper

b. Student's CV. Optionally, additional supporting documents can be provided, such as published or submitted papers by the student. 

c. Student's Academic Transcripts

5. Evaluation Process

a. The student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee will serve as the committee for the exam (without requiring the external member to serve). The supervisory committee chair will also serve as the student's qualifying exam chair.

b. From the submission date (in step 3 above), the committee has 2 weeks to evaluate the survey. The committee will then decide to: I. compile a list of questions, II. ask for a ‘major revision’ (which may also be accompanied by a set of questions), or III. fail.

The committee will send any questions back to the student via email at or before the end of this 2 week period. Any participating committee member can request a meeting with the student to discuss any issues at this time. Any meeting minutes should be kept and used later to aid evaluation

In case of I (questions): The student has 1 week to respond to these questions. The committee then has 1 week to review the submitted answers and reach a pass/fail decision. The committee may request minor revisions to the answers or another round of questions if needed. Only two total rounds of questions/answers are permitted. If the committee does not feel that the student’s survey paper and answers are passing after two rounds of questions then the student must submit a substantially revised paper (and updated materials) in a subsequent semester.

In case of II (major revision): The student has 2 weeks to address the committee’s questions and resubmit the revised survey paper. The committee then has two weeks to review the revised paper and reach a pass/fail decision. Only one round of major revision is permitted. If the committee does not feel that the student’s survey paper is passing after one round of revisions then the student must submit a substantially revised paper (and updated materials) in a subsequent semester.

The student should setup a meeting with the committee members (as a group or in individual meetings). The committee should use such meeting(s) to validate the originality of the work and clarify any issues, before making their decisions.

The committee members make their decisions to of pass, fail, or major revision, using the submitted material (i.e., area survey, CV, and transcripts), the answers to the committee’s questions, and revised survey (if requested).

c. A majority of committee members (two out of three, or three out of four) must agree to pass in order to pass the student.

d. The grades and comments (if any) given by the committee members shall be kept anonymous. The student can see the overall grade and individual comments. The student however cannot see individual pass/fail grades or the mapping of the questions to the specific committee members.

Note: The student has 2 attempts to pass the qualifying exam:

a. After 2 failures, the student will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

b. The student can appeal dismissal in the event of a second failure through the Graduate Affairs Committee.

Admission to Candidacy

A student may apply for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy by scheduling an oral examination after having passed the Written Qualifying Examination. The decision to advance a student to Ph.D. candidacy is made by the student's Supervisory Committee. This decision is based on the following:

  • Performance in course work
  • The opinion of the Supervisory Committee concerning the overall fitness for candidacy
  • An approved Ph.D. dissertation topic

The purpose of the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination is to certify the scope and validity of the student's proposed research, and the student's ability to perform the work. A document including a concise introduction to the area of research, relevant work by others, preliminary results by the student, an outline of proposed work, and a bibliography must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the examination. The student will receive a grade of pass or fail. A failing mark will require another examination when the student is better prepared, at least one semester after the first attempt. A passing mark will often be accompanied by useful comments (to be made in writing by the student's committee chairman) so the student can better refine future efforts and goals.

After passing the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination, the student is admitted to candidacy. The student may register for Research for Doctoral Dissertation (CIS 7980) only after admission to candidacy. Prior to passing the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination, research must be conducted under the Advanced Research course (CIS 7979).

The Graduate School States: Time Lapse:  Between the admission to Candidacy/Proposal be at least 2 terms. The term the qualifying examination is passed is counted, if the examination occurs before the midpoint of the term.

Ph.D. Students Earning a Master's Degree

Ph.D. students may apply for a Master's degree after advancing to Ph.D. candidacy, assuming completion of all Master's degree requirements and continued pursuit of the Ph.D. degree in the CISE Department.

Performance Evaluation and Termination of Ph.D. Students

All Ph.D. students must make proper progress towards the Ph.D. degree. This includes maintaining a good GPA, passing the Ph.D. qualifing exam within the allowable time limit, advancing to candidacy, and defending the Ph.D. thesis promptly. Ph.D. students are evaluated annually by the Graduate Affairs Committee in conjunction with students' Supervisory Committees. The completed evaluation is sent to the student and the Supervisory Committee chair. Students who repeatedly fail to make proper progress may be terminated from the Ph.D. program. Students already having advanced to Ph.D. candidacy status may be terminated by a vote of the faculty. Such a decision will also be based on the student's annual evaluations, and a recommendation of the student's Supervisory Committee.

Communication Skills

The Graduate School requires all Ph.D. candidates to be able to use the English language correctly and effectively. This requirement directly addresses the need for candidates to demonstrate oral and written communication skills.

Ph.D. Final Examination

All Ph.D. students are required to complete and defend a dissertation of publishable quality. This must be an independent investigation, including a basic research component that constitutes an original contribution to the engineering aspects of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. Projects that solely demonstrate an application of computer technology to a new problem area will not be acceptable. The format of the dissertation must conform to the requirements of the Graduate School. To facilitate this, the Graduate School Editorial Office provides the Guide for Preparing Theses and Dissertations and various seminars. The dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School in electronic form.

The defense is the final examination in which the student defends his/her research. It must occur after the dissertation has been submitted to the Graduate School and all other prescribed work is done, but no more than six months before the conferring of the degree. The student must be registered for at least three hours (two hours in summer term) of CIS 7980 during the term in which the final examination is given and the term in which the degree is conferred.

The dissertation title, along with an abstract, should be posted on electronic and standard bulletin boards at least two weeks in advance so that interested students and faculty may attend. A general-audience abstract must be submitted along with the announcement to the CISE Student Services Center for posting. The dissertation must be submitted to all Supervisory Committee members at least two weeks in advance of the defense.

The defense consists of two parts: an open part and a closed part. During the open part, the student gives a one-hour presentation on the dissertation work. During this presentation, members of the audience may ask questions. Then the student's Supervisory Committee chairperson will ask the audience to leave the room to begin the closed section of the defense. The student's Supervisory Committee members and other faculty may ask the student more detailed questions during the closed section. The student will then leave the room while the Supervisory Committee prepares its decision. The defense may be attempted at most two times.

Time Limitation - All work for the doctorate must be completed within 5 years after the Qualifying Examination, or the examination must be repeated and passed.

Checklist for Ph.D. Degree

First Semester:

  • Apply for credit transfer up to 30 hours from a prior master degree in computer science or computer engineering from an accredited institution.
  • Apply for credit transfer for up to 15 credits beyond the master's degree earned from a computer science doctoral program at other accredited institutions.
  • Apply for equivalency for any core course to satisfy the corecourse requirement.

Second Semester:

  • Select Supervisory Committee Chair and form the Supervisory Committee before the end of the semester.

Third and Fourth Semesters:

  • Prepare for and take the Ph.D. written Qualifying Exam. Students can take the first attempt after satisfying the core GPA requirements.
  • Register for the grad seminar course (one credit for each of three semesters).

Semester for Admission to Candidacy:

  • Discuss with Supervisory Committee Chair the plan to take the candidacy exams; inform the committee and set up the oral exam date.
  • Inform Graduate Academic Advisor of the planned date of the exam.
  • Prepare the dissertation proposal and deliver to the committee 2 weeks before the exam.
  • After admittance to candidacy, apply for the master's degree (for those without a prior master's degree who have satisfied all master's requirements).

Semester Before Graduation:

  • Discuss your plan for graduation with the Supervisory Committee Chair.
  • Check with the Graduate Academic Advisor to see if all graduation requirements have been satisfied.

Semester of Graduation:

  • Submit degree application online via Student Self Service.
  • Complete departmental exit interview process (watch for applicable emailed notifications).
  • Be registered for at least the minimum number of credits required for completion of the degree.
  • FOR DISSERTATION DEFENSE:
    • Schedule dissertation defense with supervisory committee.
    • Inform Student Services of scheduled plans and reserve a room for the defense.
    • At least a week before the defense, provide each member of the supervisory committee an advance copy of your dissertation.
    • Ask your supervisory chair to pick up your file at Student Services on the day of your defense.
    • After defending, verify with your supervisory chair that all final exam forms have been correctly signed.
    • Submit all dissertation forms/copies to the Graduate School by published deadlines.

For additional information contact a CISE Graduate Academic Advisor.