Doctoral Degree Program

The University of Houston, Department of Computer Science offers a Ph.D. in Computer Science degree.  Students in this program must comply with all the rules and satisfy all the requirements set by the University. In addition, the Department of Computer Science has rules and regulations detailed below.

For details on Admission to the Graduate Program of the Computer Science Department, please visit the Admissions page.

The department mandates that all students admitted to the graduate program have a sufficient background in computer science. Details on the requirements can be found on the Prerequisites page.

Program Requirements

A student must complete a minimum of 72 credit hours subject to the following restrictions:

  • At least 36 credits of approved, regular, or special topics (xx97) courses. At most 6 of these hours may be outside the Department with the approval of the student’s research advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Between 24 and 30 credits of research hours (8x98) to fulfill the 72 hour degree requirement.
  • At least 6 but not more than 12 credits of dissertation (8x99).

In addition, students have to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Satisfactory completion of the core requirement.
  • Obtain a research advisor.
  • Satisfactory performance on the 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. 

Time Limitations

Program requirements have certain strict time limitations. The time limitation period begins as soon as the student has 18 or more hours of credits applicable to a graduate degree (MS or PhD) in Computer Science. These include transferred credits as well as credits earned at UH. The time limitations apply to MS students who later decide to continue in the PhD program as well as to PhD students.

Core Requirements

A student satisfies the core requirement by taking a set of 4 or more courses from the two lists below with a GPA of 3.4 or better and no grade less than B. Two course must be from the Theory list and two  from the Systems list. The Director of Graduate Studies may in exceptional cases waive at most 1 of the 4 courses based on similar courses taken at another university.


  • Data Structures and Algorithms (6320)
  • Numerical Analysis (6364)
  • Theory of Computation (6369)
  • Machine Learning (6342)


  • Database Systems(6340)
  • Computer Architecture (6385)
  • Languages and Compilers (6361)
  • Operating Systems (6360)
  • Computer Network (6377)

Full-time students must complete the core requirements in at most 2 long semesters after the time limitation period begins. Part-time students (6 hours or less every semester) must complete the core requirement in at most 4 long semesters after the time limitation period begins. Failure to complete the core requirements with the required GPA within the time limitation normally results in an MS student not being allowed to continue into the PhD program and a PhD student being removed from the PhD program.

Graduate Colloqium Course

All PhD students are requires to take the Graduate Colloquium course (COSC 6110) no later than the first Fall semester after completing the core requirement.

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 semester. Student may register for doctoral research hours if they have an advisor and have completed the core requirement.

Proposal Defense

A student must pass a proposal defense administered by the student’s dissertation committee. The dissertation committee consists of the student’s research advisor and at least 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. The proposal defense is open to the public and should be announced two weeks in adance. The purpose of the proposal defense is to determine the fitness of the student for PhD level research. 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 or unsatisfactory. A student in the Ph.D. program becomes a Ph.D. candidate upon proposal defense full-time and part-time students must appear no later than the end of the third long semester after completing the core requirement. The Preliminary Examination 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.

Maintenance of Satisfactory Progress

Ensuring that the Ph.D. students gain broad knowledge in computer science and develop skills to produce research products is of utmost priority to the department. A student is expected to always maintain a satisfactory progress towards these goals.

Before completing the core course requirement, to maintain satisfactory progress, a student should:

  • Fulfill the GPA and timing requirements for the core courses
  • Have a research advisor by the end of the second long semester of entering the Ph.D. program
  • Attend the required number of department seminars

    After completing the core course requirement, to maintain satisfactory progress, a student 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. The advice is to work towards one or more publications before the proposal defense and additional publications or submissions before dissertation defense.
  • Take the proposal defense and receive a "pass" grade from the dissertation committee by the end of the second year after completing the core requirement
  • Attend the required number of department seminars

Annual Review

The department evaluates the progress of each student in April to determine if the student is making "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" progress towards a Ph.D. The evaluation results, including feedback, are communicated to the student and the research advisor.

A student making "unsatisfactory" progress will be required to immediately come up with a remediation plan in consultation with the DGS and the faculty advisor. The student's progress is reviewed again in November of the same year. If this second review determines the student to be making “satisfactory” progress, the student is in good standing in the program. If this evaluation results in “unsatisfactory” progress, the student’s progress is evaluated by the faculty of the department in April. If this meeting determines that the student is not making “satisfactory” progress, the faculty will make final recommendation on the status of the student, including possible removal of the student from the Ph.D. program.

Every March, each student, who has completed the core course requirement, submits a report describing research accomplishments and progress towards a Ph.D. The student's advisor also submits a brief written report to the DGS assessing the student's work and progress towards a Ph.D.

Every April, the DGS and the graduate studies committee evaluates the student's progress towards a Ph.D. based on the department records and submitted reports. For students who intend to continue in the Ph.D. program beyond six years from their initial enrollment in the graduate program, the progress evaluation is done by the faculty during the April faculty meeting or a special meeting called to evaluate student progress.

Annual review form submitted by the students: Please make a list of publications, presentations, software release, patents, and professional service since the last review. If you do not have these, please describe your progress in research since the last review and plans towards these outcomes. Attach your current CV. Please submit this report to your advisor and the DGS.

Annual review form submitted by the advisors: Please briefly assess the student's progress in research since the last review and expected graduation timeline. Please submit this report to the DGS.

Dissertation Defense

A candidate will be required to present her/his dissertation in a public 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. The dissertation defense should be scheduled at least six months after successful proposal defense.

University Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements

Students must satisfy all the university academic regulations and degree requirements for a PhD degree. See the Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements section of the online graduate catalog.