skip to content

Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Applications to the Ph.D. program and all supporting documents must be submitted and received online by the published deadline. Please see for admissions requirements and the application deadline. Changes or updates to the admission process are posted in September.

The following are general department requirements. Contact the Computer Science Ph.D. administrator for details.

  1. A student should plan and complete a coherent program of study covering the basic areas of computer science and related disciplines. The student's adviser has primary responsibility for the adequacy of the program, which is subject to review by the Ph.D. program committee.
  2. The first year of the Ph.D. program is spent working with 1-3 different professors on a rotating basis. The intent is to allow the first-year Ph.D. student to work with a variety of professors before aligning with a permanent program adviser. Students who don't need the full year to find a professor to align with have the option of aligning within the first or second quarter.
  3. Each student, to remain in the Ph.D. program, must satisfy the breadth requirement covering introductory-level graduate material in major areas of computer science. A student must fulfill two breadth-area requirements in each of three general areas by the end of the second year in the program. If students have fulfilled the six breadth-area requirements they are eligible to apply for candidacy prior to the second year in the program. An up-to-date list of courses that satisfy the breadth requirements can be found at The student must completely satisfy the breadth requirement by the end of the second year in the program and must pass a qualifying exam in the general area of their expected dissertation by the end of the third year in the program.
  4. As part of the training for the Ph.D., the student is also required to complete at least 4 units (a unit is 10 hours per week for one quarter) as a course assistant or instructor for courses in Computer Science numbered 100 or above.
  5. The Reading Committee form and Oral Thesis Proposal must be submitted within one year of passing the qualifying exam.
  6. The most important requirement is the dissertation. After passing the required qualifying examination, each student must secure the agreement of a member of the department faculty to act as the dissertation adviser. The dissertation adviser is often the student's program adviser.
  7. The student must pass a University oral examination in the form of a defense of the dissertation. This is typically held after all or a substantial portion of the dissertation research has been completed.
  8. The student is expected to demonstrate the ability to present scholarly material orally in the dissertation defense.
  9. The dissertation must be accepted by a reading committee composed of the principal dissertation adviser, a second member from within the department, and a third member chosen from within or outside of the University. The department requires at least two committee members to be affiliated with the Computer Science department. The principal adviser and at least one of the other committee members must be Academic Council members.

© Stanford University - Office of the Registrar. Archive of the Stanford Bulletin 2011-12. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints