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Policies and procedures


At the start of the graduate program, each student is assigned to a faculty member who advises the student about the selection of courses and signs the student's paperwork. After the first term, and with the agreement of the faculty member, the student may select the same or a different faculty member as research supervisor for the research paper or thesis. The research supervisor also serves as the advisor. 

The change of research supervisor requires the written consent of the student, the current supervisor, the proposed supervisor and the director of graduate studies.

When a student's supervisor is absent from campus, the supervisor is required to delegate a substitute who is on campus to act on his/her behalf.

Every supervisor and co-supervisor of an SCS graduate student must have an academic faculty-level appointment (possibly an adjunct appointment) at the University of Waterloo.

CS graduate students must have a supervisor or at least one co-supervisor who either:

  • holds a regular academic appointment in SCS (e.g., not a research, adjunct, or cross-appointed faculty member),
  • is a cross-appointed faculty member who has been exceptionally granted sole-supervision privileges in SCS, or
  • holds a research or adjunct appointment in SCS and has been approved to sole-supervise the student by:
    • the director of graduate studies of SCS (for an MMath student), or
    • the associate dean, graduate studies of the Faculty of Mathematics, on the recommendation of the director of graduate studies (for a PhD student).

For PhD students, this same (co-)supervisor must also have approved doctoral dissertation supervisor (ADDS) status.

It is recognized that UWaterloo faculty members who do not have an appointment in CS can provide valuable expertise in the context of co-supervising CS grad students, especially for students involved in interdisciplinary research. However, it is desirable to maintain some level of oversight for co-supervision by non-CS faculty. Therefore, in order for a UWaterloo faculty member who does not have a cross-appointment in CS to co-supervise an CS graduate student, approval must be obtained from the director of graduate studies in CS. In such cases, a brief discussion of the research expertise of the non-CS co-supervisor should be provided to the director of graduate studies, along with a clear description of the role to be played by each co-supervisor.

Length of programs

For the MMath degree, a minimum of two terms of full-time registration is normally required. The actual length of a student's program depends heavily on the student's preparation. Students with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science usually require at least three terms, and should aim to complete within four terms.

The minimum period of registration for the PhD degree is four terms after a master's degree (or six terms after a bachelor's). The actual length of the PhD program depends heavily upon the student's preparation and choice of research topic. The nominal length is 12 terms, but actual completion times may be longer, depending on the individual's progress in completing the thesis.

Early admission from MMath to PhD

A student may transfer from a thesis or coursework MMath program to the PhD program with approval of the proposed PhD supervisor and the director of graduate studies. A master's student admitted to the PhD in this way will be registered in the PhD from bachelor's program. The RA funding for previously funded students may be adjusted. The school and supervisor will commit to the same level of TA/RA funding as given to a newly admitted PhD student, i.e., four years from the time of admission into the PhD program, assuming reasonable progress. The terms of admission will be stated in a formal offer letter to the student.

Course averages

To maintain satisfactory academic standing, MMath students must maintain a 75% average over all required courses taken while registered in the program. PhD students must similarly maintain an 80% average over all required courses taken while registered in the program. These averages include any remedial courses. In addition to these course average requirements there are three additional requirements on the minimum grade in each course, as follows:

  • All graduate students must obtain a grade of at least 70% to pass
  • All graduate students taking a remedial course must obtain a grade of at least 70%
  • PhD students who wish to count a course towards their Comp 1 requirement must obtain a grade of at least 78%

Courses in the school

Graduate courses are classified into three levels: 600-level courses are basic graduate courses, 700-level courses are intermediate graduate courses, and 800-level courses are research-oriented courses.

These courses assume a background of at least third-year Honours Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and a similar level of mathematical maturity. Students lacking this background will be asked to acquire this material in addition to the other requirements of the program.


Computer Science courses are grouped into categories and areas.

Independent study and one-time courses (CS 690A and 690B, 698, 798 and 898) will be assigned an area for each offering, based on course content. Graduate courses offered by other departments will also be assigned to one of the nine areas. Students should seek a ruling from the director of graduate studies in the School of Computer Science as to how a course is classified before enrolling in courses on other departments.

MMath students must have no more than half of their courses in any one area. PhD students must show competence in a cross section of categories and areas as defined by the requirements for the PhD Comprehensive-I

Number of required CS courses in a program

Students are permitted to take a limited number of non-CS courses which can count towards their course requirement. The number of CS courses required for each program is:

  • MMath thesis program: three out of four courses
  • MMath research paper program: five out of seven courses
  • MMath coursework program: six out of eight courses
  • PhD from master's program: three out of four courses
  • PhD from bachelor's program: six out of eight courses

An exception to this policy may apply in some cases but must have the approval of the CS director of graduate studies.

Remedial courses

Graduate students may be admitted to either program even though they have insufficient preparation for graduate study in one or more areas. Such students will be informed in their offer of admission of specific remedial courses that they will be required to take in addition to the other requirements. Remedial courses are numbered at the 200, 300 and 400 levels. Students must obtain a mark of at least 70% in required remedial courses. If 70% is not obtained a substitute remedial course must be taken. Also, students must achieve the required overall program average (including remedial courses.)

Graduate students are permitted to fulfil requirements for second-year remedial courses by writing the final exam in the course and obtaining a minimum grade of 70. If this option is pursued, the student should not register for the course, and the result will not appear on the student's transcript. The instructor of the course may require the student to also write the midterm if the final exam is not comprehensive.

Grade of INC in graduate courses

Normally, the work for a course should be completed in the term of the course. Exceptional cases do arise, however, and a grade of INC is provided to allow work to be completed later in these circumstances. This grade is converted to the appropriate numeric grade when the work is complete. This policy outlines the expectations on both students and instructors regarding grades of INC.

While an INC remains on a student's transcript, it will be counted by the university and scholarship agencies as a failure in all calculations of averages and in determination of adequacy of progress. Further, holders of NSERC, OGS and OGSST scholarships may not carry an INC on their transcript for more than three weeks; otherwise the scholarship will be terminated. Students also may not apply for these scholarships while carrying an INC.

Awarding of INC grades

Grades of INC are not automatic. A failure to submit a final project or similar work ordinarily results in either a numeric mark with the missing work included as zero, or when the missing work represents a major part of the term grade (such as a final exam) a grade of DNW.

A student who believes that an INC is appropriate in a course should contact the instructor as soon as the circumstances that make it appropriate become evident. The instructor will make a determination as to the appropriateness of an INC grade.

Circumstances that may warrant an INC include significant illness of the student, death in the family, parental leave, etc. Also, at the instructor's discretion, exceptional academic responsibilities (for example, if the student will present his or her work an an international conference during the exam period) may warrant an INC.

Instructors should not offer INC grades in a "blanket" fashion to all students who ask.

Clearing of INC grades

Grades of INC should be cleared as soon as possible. If it appears that an INC may not be cleared within three weeks from the start of the next term, the student and instructor should jointly submit an explanation to the director of graduate studies. The explanation should include both the reason for the INC and the manner and time in which the student expects to clear it.

Awarding of final grades

All grades should be submitted in a timely manner. In particular, an INC for one student must not delay final grades for other students in the class. Further, once a student submits work to clear an INC, that work must be evaluated and a grade-change submitted.

As a benchmark for timely submission of grades or grade changes, the length of time between the end of an exam period and the normal due date for grades will be considered both reasonable and sufficient for evaluation of work and submission of grades.

Violations of policy

Students who fail to request and INC or who do not submit the required work will receive the appropriate mark based on work submitted. If this results in poor overall performance, the graduate committee will consider the case in the same manner as others.

Instructors should grant INC grades only for adequate cause and should reassign a numerical mark in a reasonable time following submission of the completed work. If violations may have occurred, the director of graduate studies will refer the matter to the director of the school for consideration and appropriate action.

Students who have concerns under this policy should contact the graduate advocate or the director of graduate studies. Instructors should contact either the director of the school or the director of graduate studies.

Progress reports

Progress reports have been instituted to help the student focus on making timely progress through the program requirements and to encourage continual, constructive interaction between the student and supervisor. The student will fill out a prepared progress report form in consultation with the supervisor at the intervals specified below and submit it to the graduate committee which will review the student's progress.

Completion of the required progress reports will affect registration decisions. For example, a program extension will not be granted to a student who fails to submit the required progress report.

A student who is concerned about the information required on the progress report or is uncomfortable with the collaborative nature of the process is encouraged to discuss the particular circumstances with the graduate advocate.


The University of Waterloo operates on a three term basis: fall (September-December), winter (January-April), and spring (May-August). Registration takes place at the beginning of each term. The registration procedure consists of two phases: fee payment and course selection. They may be done in either order, but should be done as early as possible.

  1. Fees can be paid to the University of Waterloo by direct bank payment, or funded students may choose to arrange for fees to be deducted from their term funding. Late payment will incur additional charges. Further details.
  2. Course selection is made in consultation with the student's advisor. The student then enrolls in the courses using the student Quest system unless auditing a course, enrolling in a remedial course, or taking an course extra to degree. In these cases, the student must use a drop/add form. Course selection should be made as early as possible, and certainly by the end of the first month of the term. Course computer accounts are set up after the student is registered in the course.

Courses may be dropped or added using the student Quest system until the end of the fourth week of the term. After that courses can be dropped or added until the end of lectures by completing a drop/add form. After the fourth week of the term, the associate dean, in addition to the student's supervisor and the director of graduate studies must approve any courses dropped or added.

Required withdrawal

The principal reason for requiring a student to withdraw is unsatisfactory progress. The responsibility for this decision rests with the graduate committee, acting on information from the student's advisor/supervisor and other faculty members who have interacted with the student. Under normal circumstances, poor performance in courses is interpreted as unsatisfactory progress. MMath students are expected to maintain an overall average of at least 75%, and PhD students an average of at least 80%. Averages within 5% of these requirements will be reviewed each term; averages below 70 for MMath or 75 for PhD will ordinarily result in automatic and immediate withdrawal. In addition, failing to complete the required number of courses each term may be construed as unsatisfactory progress, as is failure to complete the PhD comprehensives within the allotted time. Excessive delay in completing a thesis is also unsatisfactory.

A student who is asked to withdraw from the program can appeal this decision in writing to the director of graduate studies. The appeal is then considered by the graduate committee, who may consult with the student and/or the student's advisor/supervisor. In the event that the appeal is rejected, the student can further appeal to the associate dean, graduate studies, Faculty of Mathematics. If rejected, a final appeal is allowed to the Faculty of Mathematics Student Appeals Committee. Normally, the student remains registered in the program during this process.