FAQs for New Postgraduate Students

Q: How do I find out who my advisor is and what my research topic will be?

Q: Due to visa or other reasons I will not be able to arrive in Hong Kong before the registration period for new students. What can I do? How late can I register? May I defer my admission?

Q: How can I prepare for my studies in the program?

Q: In my acceptance letter it states that I was accepted provisionally on condition that I take certain Undergraduate (UG) courses and achieve a grade of a B in them after I arrive at UST. What is the reason for this condition? If I took courses similar to these courses already do I still need to take the courses at UST? I still have a semester left at my home university. If I take these courses there doing my last semester do I have to retake them at UST?


Q: How do I find out who my advisor is and what my research topic will be?

A: The MPhil and PhD programs are research programs so MPhil and PhD students will need to find research topics and advisors.

A small number of MPhil and PhD students are recruited directly to work with a specific faculty member. Such students are explicitly informed of their advisor in their acceptance letter to the program; after arriving at HKUST such students should contact their advisors to discuss how to develop a research plan.

If your acceptance letter does not explicitly mention an advisor then you do not have a permanent research advisor assigned to you. Most new students are in this category. The way that our program is designed we will assign you an interim advisor after you arrive here. Your interim advisor will advise you on which courses you might want to take and answer questions you might have about the department.

During your first semester and a half it will be your responsibility to take classes and go around talking with faculty members to find a permanent supervisor that you want to work with and who is willing to work with and support you (your first year funding comes from the department; your funding in later years will come directly from your advisor's research funds). Together with your supervisor you will design a research plan.

One final point. Most candidates listed an intended area of research on their applications. Even if you have done so it is not necessary for you to actually work in that specific area; if after you arrive here it occurs that you find another area that interests you and an advisor that is willing to supervise you in that area you are permitted to switch to that area. An exception to this rule is for the small number of students described above who were recruited to work with particular faculty members on particular projects. If you are one of those students you will be normally funded directly by that faculty member (all other students will initially be funded as teaching assistants by the department) so you have an obligation to work with that faculty on that project.


Q: Due to visa or other reasons I will not be able to arrive in Hong Kong before the registration period for new students. What can I do? How late can I register? May I defer my admission?

A: The first thing to do is to contact us at , to let us know that you will be late, explaining the reason for the delay and, informing us, if known, as to when you expect to arrive.

For reasonable cases, e.g., visa delays beyond your control, we will permit you to register late. According to university regulations, with departmental approval, you may register up until the end of the course add/drop period. This is two weeks after the start of the semester. Please be aware, though, that arriving late can lead to trouble with your courses; it can be quite difficult to catch up after missing the first two weeks of class. It is therefore in your best interests to arrive as early as possible. Also, if you have been assigned a TAship, arriving late imposes a burden on the class to which you have been assigned to help.

For these reasons the department policy is that we will normally automatically grant requests to register up to one week late; cases in which students need to register within the second week of the semester will be dealt with on a case by case basis, depending upon what classes they need to take and what courses they have been assigned to work for. As mentioned above, according to university regulations, students can not register later than two weeks into the semester.

Students who are not able to register on time may also request a deferment of admission for one or two semesters. To do this, please send an email to explaining why you want to defer and for how long. Please note that, according to university regulations, it is impossible for us to grant an extension of more than one year after the original semester of admission.

Finally, each year there are a small number of incoming students who have been directly recruited to work with an individual faculty member and will be supported in their first semester as a Research Assistant (RA) out of the faculty's grant instead of as a TA. (Such students have been informed of this fact before admission so if you don't know if you are in this category, you're not.) For these students the decision as to whether to permit the student to register late is shared with the faculty member who will have to decide if she/he is willing to fund the student if they arrive late.


Q: How can I prepare for my studies in the program?

A: There are three things you can do

  1. If your acceptance letter says that you are accepted provisionally and must take certain courses after arriving at HKUST (see below) and you still have time to take more courses at your home university see if you can register for all/some of the courses that we will require of you. Taking them at your home university now means that you will not have to take them after you arrive here.
  2. Enjoy yourself: Postgraduate studies are a lot of work and very specialized. Now that you've been accepted try to relax for a while; after you arrive here you will become quite busy so try and enjoy your time now.

Q: In my acceptance letter it states that I was accepted provisionally on condition that I take certain Undergraduate (UG) courses and achieve a grade of a B in them after I arrive at UST. What is the reason for this condition? If I took courses similar to these courses already do I still need to take the courses at UST? I still have a semester left at my home university. If I take these courses there doing my last semester do I have to retake them at UST?

A: The Computer Science and Engineering Department requires that all of our incoming Postgraduate (PG) students, be they MPhil, or PhD, already have studied the material covered in our courses COMP 3511, and COMP 3711. PhD students are also required to have taken the equivalent of COMP 3721 (short lists of course contents are appended below). The reason for this requirement is that we consider this material essential background knowledge for anyone attempting advanced studies in computer science. Students who have not taken these courses are sometimes admitted but with the provisional condition that they must take the missing courses after they arrive here and receive at least a B grade in all such courses. If they do not achieve the B then they are deemed not to have met the condition of their acceptance and might be asked to leave the program.

If you believe that we have asked you to retake a course that you have already taken in your previous university or that the material in a course we have requested you to take was covered in a few different courses that you've already taken it is possible for you to petition to be waived from the requirement. To do so please bring the materials from your relevant course(s) with you when you come to HKUST, e.g., syllabi, course notes, textbooks, homeworks, whatever you have that describes the course contents, and give them to the PG coordinator. He/she will review them and decide whether the material in the course(s) you took really does cover the topics in the course you have been requested to take. If it does, you will be waived from the requirement.

If you have been accepted to our PhD program early in the year and have a chance to take more courses during your last semester at your home university that satisfy your provisional course requirement at UST please do so. Taking the courses there will release you from the requirement of having to take them here. If you have questions as to whether a particular course will satisfy a requirement please contact the PG coordinator at for further information.

COMP 3511 Operating Systems
Principles, purpose and structure of operating systems; processes, threads, and multi-threaded programming; CPU scheduling; synchronization, mutual exclusion; memory management and virtual memory; device management; file systems, security and protection.

COMP 3711 Design and Analysis of Algorithms
Techniques for designing algorithms, proving their correctness, and analyzing their running times. Topics covered include: sorting, selection, heaps, balanced search trees, divide-and-conquer, greedy algorithms, dynamic programming, and graph algorithms.

COMP 3721 Theory of Computation
This course is an introduction to the foundation of computation. Topics covered include set theory and countability, formal languages, finite automata and regular languages, pushdown automata and context-free languages, Turing machines, undecidability, P and NP, NP completeness.


For further information, please contact the Computer Science and Engineering Department Postgraduate Program Co-ordinator:

Dr. Ke YI
PG Coordinator
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Email: