PhD Degree Program

Research with reach.

  • We offer a PhD level graduate program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
  • We participate in the Co-operative Education program at the graduate level.
  • UVic's Department of Computer Science is recognized as being among the best in Western Canada.
  • We are a medium-sized department - students get lots of individual attention and graduate classes are small.
  • We concentrate on a few research areas and are world class performers in those areas.
  • Our programs' graduates have an excellent record of employment in challenging jobs in academia, industry and government.

Please use the PhD Program Menu on the right to navigate this page.



SEE:  PhD Regulations and Procedures

Students admitted to the doctoral program are expected to:

  • pass the candidacy examination;
  • write and successfully defend the dissertation;
  • fulfill the course requirements;
  • fulfill the breadth requirements;
  • have yearly progress reports.

The program of study for each student is determined by the student's supervisory committee in consultation with the student, following the academic regulations. Normally, each graduate student is also expected to work as a teaching and/or research assistant as part of their program. Most students complete their program within four years. Students enrolled in a Co-operative education program will have additional months added to the normal completion times equal to the time spent on co-op work terms.

Required Courses

The PhD program for students entering with a Master's degree consists of a minimum of 6 units (4 courses) of course work at the 500 level or higher. All courses are valued at 1.5 units. All Ph D programs include the research skills course CSC 595 (formerly called: Graduate Seminar) which is to be over and above the course work required. The PhD program for students entering with a Bachelor’s degree consists of a minimum of 12 units of course work, where at least nine units must be at the 500 level or higher.

CSC 595             Research Skills

CSC 693             Candidacy Exam

CSC 699             PhD Thesis

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 5 courses in one category and 1 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.




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:

  • To educate the Supervisory Committee so that they are better prepared to guide the research and make helpful suggestions.
  • To ensure that the student is aware of and has considered the important background material in the area.
  • To ensure the student understands and can communicate descriptions of the problem(s) and the significance.
  • To communicate amongst students and the committee expectations regarding what might constitute research worthy of a PhD dissertation. To resolve any conflicts between parties on expectations early on, instead of after the research has been completed.
  • To protect the student from overly high expectations which result in staying too long in the program in order to benefit the supervisor’s research program.
  • To ensure the student has realistic expectations of the amount of work which needs to be accomplished. The written material of the proposal can be reused as a starting point for a dissertation.
  • To ensure the student has selected problems of an appropriate difficulty and has a research proposal which should lead to a PhD.
  • To clarify short and long term research goals and identify steps which can be taken to start making progress on the research.
  • To enable the committee to make suggestions which can provide guidance for the research or to ask questions that may be relevant, but are not being considered.
  • To introduce formally the candidate to the committee and the committee to the candidate.


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.

While there may be wide variety in the content of candidacy examinations, all such examinations must be consistent within each department. Factors that must be consistent are the manner in which the examinations are constructed, conducted and evaluated. Departments are responsible for ensuring this consistency. The steps normally expected to be followed are:

  • The candidate is required to submit a short written research proposal to the Supervisory Committee at least 2 weeks before the arranged date of the examination. The research proposal should follow the normal standards for the field, including statements of the problems, new ideas and their feasibility, methodology of research, milestones and expected results, plans for experiments, background and previous work of others. The content and length of the proposal is negotiable with the Supervisory Committee, but it is normally comprised of no more than 5 pages for the proposal of new research plus an appropriate number of pages for the background (similarly to a grant proposal).
  • On the day of the examination, the candidate is required to make a short (15-20 minute) presentation to the Supervisory Committee. The presentation is to be followed by an oral examination.
  • The evaluation is based on: (i) the written proposal; (ii) the presentation; (iii) the oral examination. The candidate will pass the candidacy only if the committee is satisfied that: the research proposal forms a viable basis for a PhD dissertation, and the candidate is sufficiently informed in the field of research that has been proposed. If the committee is not satisfied, they may request that the candidate re-take the examination, provided that the examination is held within the two years specified by the regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

When a student has successfully completed the candidacy examination(s), the supervisor will notify the graduate secretary who will prepare an official memorandum for the supevisor's signature and submission to Graduate Records.

All members of the Supervisory Committee are expected to evaluate the student for the candidacy and to be present at the oral examination. The supervisor must always be present. At most one other member of the Supervisory Committee may be absent from the candidacy examination. If a member of the Supervisory Committee is unable to attend the candidacy examination, but is able to evaluate in depth the research proposal, written feedback can be collected. A substitution can be made for the exam only, after informing Graduate Studies. Appropriate questions should be posed by the temporary member on behalf of the absentee. If a member of the Supervisory Committee is unable to participate at all in the candidacy procedure, a new member of the Supervisory Committee should be appointed.

Upon successful completion of the Candidacy Examination, the student is automatically classified as a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

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 CHECKLIST of tasks to complete leading up to your oral exam.

Thesis Writing Starter Kit

(Start of Page)
UVic's Counselling Services and the Centre for Academic Communications have partnered to create a starter kit for graduate students dealing primarily with strategies for group writing. The kit also includes useful information to help kick-start individual writing strategies to increase efficiency and productivity.  See:  Thesis Writing Starter Kit


PhD Supervisory Committee

The student's program of study is under the direction of a Supervisory Committee composed of a minimum of three members: an academic supervisor from the home academic unit, at least one other member from within the home academic unit and at least one member from outside the home academic unit. Any regular member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies is eligible to serve.


The Relationship between Students and the Supervisory Committee

 In-depth explanations and detailed guidelines for the joint responsibilities towards a successful PhD program can be found in the document entitled “Responsibilities in the Supervisory Relationship Policy” from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. It is important and expected that both students and members of the Supervisory Committee are knowledgeable and familiar with the document.

Annual Progress Reports

 Your PhD supervisor is responsible for providing regular reports to evaluate progress in the graduate program. The 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.

The purpose of the annual report is to support the successful progress of a student through a graduate program. The review of accomplishments and milestones achieved during a 12-month review period is a constructive tool to move forward successfully. Achievements need to be acknowledged and rewarded, possible impediments need to be examined and actions for their removal agreed upon. The 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 students being unable to register for the following term and will be reported to the department’s Chair by the Graduate Advisor.

How to submit an Annual Progress Report

  1. Students supply the information required to complete a report well in advance of the submission deadline. This information includes: name and student number, courses, TA work, financial support, co-op work-terms, etc.
  2. Supervisors should present the information, together with their evaluation, to the other members of the Supervisory Committee and collect any pertinent feedback.
  3. Supervisors should summarize the complete evaluation from the committee in writing.
  4. Students and supervisors should meet and discuss the evaluation.
  5. Any actions expected for the continuing time in the program should be articulated in writing and agreed upon.
  6. Students have the opportunity to attach their own comments in writing.
  7. Both students and supervisors must sign the final document. The signature of the supervisor acknowledges that the supervisory committee has been consulted and the report has been discussed with the student. The signature of the student acknowledges that the report has been discussed with the supervisor and an opportunity given to include comments.


SEE:  PhD Regulations and Procedures

PhD Examining Committee

This consists of the Supervisory Committee, a Chair appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies and at least 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.

Graduate Studies Committee

The department’s Graduate Studies Committee is composed of faculty members from the department, as well as one Graduate Student Representative. This committee is responsible for admission decisions, curriculum deliberations, administration of policies and procedures, and determinations of graduate awards. The Graduate Advisor is the Chair of this committee and the formal liaison officer between the department and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.