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 doctoral program.  However, distribution courses and non-CS courses cannot be imported from another institution. Note, however, that no Columbia “points” (credit) can be awarded for imported elective courses.

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.

In some very rare cases, a student may attend another institution during his/her enrollment in the doctoral program and take courses at that institution.  To import such courses, the import procedure must be undertaken during the following semester (or during the first semester of the student’s return to Columbia, whichever occurs later).  All such courses must be approved by the full faculty.  These courses count towards breadth requirement progress during the semester they are taken, however, not during the semester imported.  Note that “summer session” and other shorter-than-usual courses usually would not meet the quality/quantity guidelines and thus would not be importable.

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“.

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.

Students must submit all completed import forms by the last day of classes of their first semester enrolled in the doctoral program.

Last updated on July 10, 2020.