Import Policy

It is possible to fulfill some of the elective part of the breadth requirement by “importing” courses taken recently at other institutions of equivalent quality, whether the course was taken prior to or during formal enrollment in the PhD or DES program.  However, distribution courses and non-CS courses cannot be imported from another institution. Note, however, that no Columbia “points” (credit) are ever awarded for imported elective courses.

Important Note: In the case of new PhD students entering without an MS, at most four electives may be imported because at least two electives must be completed at Columbia in order to full the requirements for the “MS along the way“. (It is not possible to enroll in the DES program without a prior master’s degree.)

Courses taken outside Columbia cannot be imported unless the following conditions are met. Note that “summer session” and other shorter-than-usual courses usually would not meet the quality/quantity guidelines and thus would not be importable.

  1. The faculty member responsible for the most closely corresponding Columbia CS graduate (4000 level or above) course, or if there is no reasonably corresponding Columbia CS graduate course the faculty member deemed by his/her peers to demonstrate the most relevant expertise, has presented a judgment in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies, and the DGS has concurred, that the imported course is considered of equal or higher quality than the typical Columbia CS graduate course, and the performance of the student is considered of equal or higher quality than that required to obtain at least a B+ grade in a typical Columbia CS graduate course.
  2. All materials requested by the evaluating faculty member and/or the DGS are provided, in English or notarized English translation.  The evaluating faculty member and/or DGS may, at their discretion, ask the student to provide oral or written answers to questions regarding the material learned in the course and/or may contact members of the institution at which the course was taken for additional information.
  3. The student’s grade in the course was B+ or higher.  For those schools that do not record plus and minus grades, a B is acceptable only if the student provides acceptable documentation that his/her grade was in the corresponding percentile of B+ or higher awarded in similar Columbia CS courses. Similar documentation is required to show B+ equivalence for schools that grade on different scales (e.g., out of 10 points).
  4. In the case of courses completed more than 5 years prior to formal enrollment, the appropriate faculty member (the person approving the import or the advisor in the case of prior Columbia courses) must judge that the course is sufficiently relevant to the goals of the doctoral breadth requirement.  For example, the topic covered by the course should not have changed significantly since the student took the course and the student evidently still retains mastery of the course material.

All import applications must be submitted no later than two weeks (14 days) prior to the student’s first Black Friday enrolled in the PhD or DES program.  Importation decisions are strictly binary, yes or no.

Last updated on June 18, 2018.