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PhD | Foundation and Breadth Requirements

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The goals for the Foundation and Breadth Requirements in the PhD program are:

  1. To preserve the cohesiveness of Computer Science as a discipline with some common language, foundational knowledge, and shared perspectives.
  2. To support the development of researchers that can draw inspiration from a wide range of sub-disciplines and other fields.
  3. To instill sufficient understanding of the approaches, tools, and techniques of other sub-disciplines which encourages, enables collaboration, and communication between different fields.

Students are expected to complete three (3-unit) Foundation/Breadth requirements (Foundation courses are included only for students who cannot waive courses and must complete Foundation Requirements while in the PhD program) by the spring quarter of their second year.

Note: Students who started and want to complete the old breadth requirement, please see Retired Breadth Requirement.

Foundation Requirements

  •  Students will be required to take (Credit/No Credit accepted) or waive* CS 103, 109, 111, 161.
    • Completion of a CS Bachelor's degree and/or CS Master's degree automatically waives all four courses. Please email and attach a copy of your UG or MS transcript for confirmation.
    • Waiving will be lenient based on sufficient coverage of a predefined set of topics for each course and transparent. Please email the foundation course approver and include a copy of your transcript and course syllabus or link to your course syllabus.
    • Double dipping: At the discretion of the waiver approver, a specific, more advanced, Stanford course could be assigned to waive foundation courses (e.g., CS 154 for CS 103) allowing students to fill both foundation and breadth requirements simultaneously.

*Note: Units from waived courses to satisfy the foundation requirements will not count toward candidacy. If you have waived all the foundation requirements due to your CS bachelor's or master's Degree, those units will not count toward candidacy.

Breadth Requirements

  • The Breadth course requirement will be three (3) 3-unit total courses from four (4) different predefined areas (cannot be two (2) from the same area).
  • Students need to pass the courses with grade B+ or higher.
  • Breadth courses cannot be waived (these courses must be taken while in the PhD program).
  • Three foundation/breadth requirements need to be completed by the end of the second year. All courses need to be completed by the end of the third year. Any deviation from this timeline needs to be approved ahead of time by the student advisor and the director of the PhD program.

Breadth Area