Import Policy

It is possible to fulfill some or all of the six electives for the breadth requirement by “importing” courses taken recently at other institutions of equivalent quality.  However, distribution courses cannot be imported from another institution. 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 fulfill the requirements for the “MS along the way“.

Normally, students import courses taken at a prior institution.  In some very rare cases, a student may take one course at another institution during his/her enrollment in the doctoral program when no equivalent course is regularly offered at Columbia.  Students may import more than one course during their enrollment in the doctoral program only with approval by the full faculty[Revised by full faculty vote 12/17/20 to allow importing one non-Columbia course taken after enrollment without full faculty approval.  Effective immediately.]

Students cannot import multiple courses on the same subject.  Students cannot apply both an imported course and a Columbia course on the same subject to the ten course requirement.  If a student takes a Columbia course (or comp exam) equivalent to a course imported by that student, the student forfeits the imported course.

Courses taken outside Columbia cannot be imported unless all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The course must fulfill all of the requirements for PhD electives. [Revised by full faculty vote 12/17/20 to allow imports of non-CS courses.  Effective immediately.]
  2. The course must be approved by the student’s advisor (both research advisor and departmental advisor, if different).
  3. In addition to the advisor(s), the CS faculty member responsible for the most closely corresponding Columbia CS graduate course, or if there is no reasonably corresponding Columbia CS graduate course the CS faculty member deemed by his/her peers to demonstrate the most relevant expertise, has evaluated the course and 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 lecture course.
  4. 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.
  5. The student’s grade in the course was B+ or higher.  For those institutions 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 graduate courses. Such documentation is also required to show B+ equivalence for institutions that grade on different scales (e.g., out of 10 points).
  6. In the case of courses completed more than 5 years prior to formal enrollment, the evaluating faculty member must judge that the course is sufficiently relevant to the goals of the doctoral breadth requirement, and the DGS must concur.  In particular, the subject 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.

Students must submit all completed import forms for courses imported from prior institutions by the last day of classes of their first semester enrolled in the doctoral program. In the case of importing a course taken at another institution after enrolling in the doctoral program, the import procedure must be undertaken within two weeks after grades become available at the end of the semester in which the course was taken (or by the end of the first semester of the student’s return to Columbia, if absent).

Last updated on December 19, 2020.