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Expectations Once Admitted: Stages of a UCD CS Structured PhD

Expectations Once Admitted: Stages of a UCD CS Structured PhD

The School of Computer Science structured PhD programme is a two-stage PhD programme that operates within the UCD academic regulations(opens in a new window) for structured PhDs.

For information regarding MSc by research, please consult the UCD Academic Regulations. A similar process and forms as for PhD registration apply (including mandatory setup of Research Masters Panel, similar regulations as for RSP). 

It is important to read and understand the academic regulations as these are the university rules that govern the PhD programme. 

Prior to registration, each PhD student enrolling in the CS PhD programme must have already selected a principal supervisor who has agreed to advise them through the PhD progression. The principal supervisor will constitute a Research Studies Panel (RSP), to assist in the monitoring of academic progress.

In order to transfer from Stage 1 to Stage 2, an Assessment Panel will be formed to assess whether sufficient progress has been made. Assessment panels may be formed at any other time during the PhD studies, at the request of the RSP or recommendation of a previous assessment.

On completion of the PhD, a PhD Viva Examinations Committee, is formed to examine the thesis.

Research Studies Panel

 Research Studies Panel (RSP) is appointed for each PhD student. Its purpose is to support/enhance the student-supervisor relationship, monitor student progress and provide advice and support to the student and supervisor.

In Computer Science, a 3-member panel is typically appointed consisting of:

  1. The principal supervisor
  2. A member of academic staff working in a broadly similar research area who can critically evaluate the quality of the student's research output.
  3. A member of academic staff who has experience in student supervision, who can gauge the general progress of the student.

The RSP is not an assessment panel but can provide input to an assessment panel. It is the student's responsibility to organise at least one meeting of the RSP every year.

A meeting record should be submitted to the school office after each RSP meeing. The (opens in a new window)Research Studies Meeting Report form should be used.

The RSP members should write a short commentary on the student's progress and recommendations of the meeting and include it in the report.

Programme Stages

The structured PhD programme has two stages.

  • Stage 1 is an initial period of advanced education, training and research. 
  • Stage 2 is largely dedicated to original doctoral research.

Students are admitted to Stage 2 upon completion of a Stage Transfer Assessment that takes place 18 months after the student's enrollment in the programme.

Stage 1 Module Requirements

In order to enhance their breadth across the disciplines of computer science, PhD students are expected to obtain a minimum of 30 credits (ECTS) in taught modules. In consultation with the student, the RSP will agree a set of relevant modules, which will normally be completed during the course of the student's PhD registration.

Stage 1 Module Derogations

Note that from September 2014 rules on module derogations have changed. Students who registered prior to September 2014 and who had a master's qualification prior to joining the PhD programme were allowed automatic derogations from advanced coursework. From September 2014, students can still obtain derogations but must go through the Recognition of Prior Learning process that is described below.

Students must adhere to any taught module requirements specified by their RSP.

Provided the RSP approve, students may apply for up to 20 credits of derogations, through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process. Note that the RPL allows for master's levels credits obtained on previous programmes, including UCD programmes, to be considered. However, the RSP is the primary arbiter on deciding whether the RPL should be allowed.

The process is as follows:

  1. In the first meeting of the RSP with the student, the possibility of module derogations should be discussed and if deemed appropriate the (opens in a new window)RPL application form is filled out and signed by the supervisor and RSP.
  2. The RPL application is considered by the School of CS Graduate Committee.
  3. If the School of CS Graduate Committee approve the RPL, then the RPL application is passed to the College of Science Graduate School Board for ratification.

Transfer Assessment

Normally 18 months after the start of the PhD, PhD students prepare a written Transfer Assessment Report in order to transfer from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the programme.

Required Inputs to the Transfer Assessment Process

The following documentation must be submitted before the closing date for the transfer assessment round, in order for a student to be considered for transfer:

  • The student must submit a transfer assessment report to the School Graduate Director.
  • The student must have held a RSP within the previous 6 months and submitted a RSP report signed by all members of their RSP, to the school graduate programme manager.
  • The student must submit evidence of 30ECTS credits completed and planned (e.g., RPL confirmation, UCD statement of results).
  • The principal supervisor must submit a signed (opens in a new window)PhD Transfer Form.

Transfer Assessment Report

The Transfer Assessment Report must be written to a high scholarly standard. The requirements will vary by area but a typical transfer assessment report will define precisely the problem being address in the PhD, the proposed solution, the preliminary results which demonstrate that the proposed solution is viable and a detailed plan for completion. Typically, the Transfer Assessment Report will be about 15-20 pages (5-7 pages for problem statement and discussion of related work; 3-5 pages for a description of the proposed solutions; 3-5 pages for a summary of progress to date; and 2-4 pages for future work and completion plan).

The Transfer Assessment Report will be presented to an Assessment Panel, that will decide on whether to transfer a student to stage 2 of the PhD programme. The decision will be based on:

  • The quality of the Transfer Assessment Report.
  • RSP and supervisor reports. 
  • Interview.

Transfer Assessment Rounds

Transfer deadlines (quarterly): 15 March, 15 June, 15 September, 15 December.

 Assessment Panel meetings normally take place within a month. Students are notified of the decision shortly after the Assessment Panel meeting.

If successful, change of registration to Stage 2 can take several weeks, as the decision is passed to the College of Science School Board and ultimately to Registration.


Prior to thesis submission, students must have transferred to Stage 2 of the structured PhD programme.

Students should be aware of the thesis submission dates . Consult with your supervisor to ensure that you submit for the correct date, which depends on when you registered on the PhD programme.

PhD Examination Committee is appointed by UCD Assessment consisting of an External Examiner, and normally one and, in some cases two, Internal Examiners. A Chair is appointed to oversee the examination process and ensure it is carried out according to regulations. The Chair does not assess the PhD. The principal supervisor may not be an internal examiner.

The Examination Panel must be approved by the College of Science Graduate School Board and by the Academic Council Committee on Examinations (ACCE).

The School should propose an examination committee at least 6 months prior to submission of the PhD thesis, to ensure that it is approved prior to submission.

It is the principal supervisor's responsibility to ensure timely approval of the examination committee.

UCD School of Computer Science

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland, D04 V1W8.
T: +353 1 716 2483 | E: computerscience@ucd.ie | Location Map(opens in a new window)