Import Policy


It is possible to fulfill some or all of the elective part of the breadth requirement by "importing" courses taken at other institutions of equivalent quality, whether the course was taken prior to or during formal enrollment in the PhD program.  However, core courses and non-CS courses cannot be imported from another institution; exams for either core or elective areas also can never be imported. Note, however, that no Columbia "points" (credit) are ever awarded for imported elective courses. 

Courses taken outside Columbia cannot be imported unless all 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 PhD Committee, and the PhD Committee 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 PhD Committee are provided, in English or notarized English translation.  The evaluating faculty member and/or PhD Committee 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 PhD breadth requirement.

Importation decisions are strictly binary, yes or no.

[Change notes: Added equivalent quality, which was already stated on breadth administration page.  Removed requirements for when imports occur, since flagrantly violated. Removed mention about qualifying for progress since (as explained elsewhere) imports do not apply to progress. Removed requirement for full faculty to approve courses taken elsewhere in midst of, as opposed to before, enrollment since not needed for prior courses, and generally merged prior and in midst of cases. Wordsmithing.

Issue: The PhD Committee does not actually do this approval in practice, Lily does. Apparently we usually don't accept imports when there is no equivalent course here.

Last updated on September 13, 2008.