PhD Progression Table

Matriculate Sep-intake
QE (written & oral) End-May
Research Project 1 May-Aug
End of Year-1 Sep+1
Make-up QE (written & oral) End-Nov
Research Project 2 May-Aug
Thesis/PE comm formed End-Jun
End of Year-2 Sep+2
PE report and conduct PE End-Dec
End of Year-3 Sep+3
Thesis defence May-Aug
Graduate (End of Year-4) Sep+4
Matriculate Jan-intake
Research Project 1 May-Aug
End of Year-1 Jan+1
Research Project 2 May-Aug
QE (written & oral) End-May
Make-up QE (written & oral) End-Nov
Thesis/PE comm formed End-Dec
End of Year-2 Jan+2
PE report and conduct PE End-Jun
End of Year-3 Jan+3
Thesis defense Sep-Dec
Graduate (End of Year-4) Jan+4

Course Requirements

All PhD students are required to take a minimum of 5 graded courses (60 course credits) to graduate.

Students are required to take at least ONE (1) course in each of the 2 core areas (Optimization and Stochastics), 1 ESD course, and the remaining 2 courses from within or outside ESD pillar.

Students who completed PhD coursework as Master’s students at SUTD may seek course exemption (maximum of 2 courses) to be approved by the Graduate Committee.



For students prior to Sep 2021 intake, Course Requirements remain at 6 graded courses, consisting ONE (1) course in each of the 2 core areas (Optimization and Stochastics), 2 ESD courses, and the remaining 2 courses from within or outside ESD pillar.

Other Requirements

All students (except EDB-IPP and EngD) must attend the ESD Seminar Series for at least 2 semesters during their course of study (attendance of 80% of the seminars for the term is required).

All students must achieve a 3.5 or greater GPA average at the completion of their course requirements.

Some scholarships have a teaching requirement. For these scholarships, students must teach (teaching assistant or equivalent) a minimum number of courses during the programme, typically two.

All students are required to perform two directed research projects during the first two summer terms of the PhD course of study:

  • Each directed research project must be supervised by at least one research faculty member and equivalent to a “pass or fail” course.
  • The faculty member (“project advisor”) must certify that the project is completed satisfactorily. The conditions for a “pass” are determined by the project advisor.
  • The student would make a presentation for each of the directed research project.
  • The two directed research projects can have the same or different project advisors.
  • The two directed research projects do not necessarily have to contribute to the PhD thesis defended by the student at the end of their course of study.

Qualifying Exams

The basic purpose of the Qualifying Examinations (QEs) is to ensure that PhD students meet a minimum competency level in topics relevant to their success in the PhD programme.

Individuals are referred to as ‘PhD students’ if they have not yet taken their QEs and are referred to as ‘PhD candidates’ after successfully passing their QEs.

Students will be tested on two written exams on Linear Optimisation and Stochastic Models. An oral exam will further assess and discuss the written exams as well as the basic topics in the relevant courses. Students obtaining a minimum grade of A- in the core classes of Linear Optimisation and/or Stochastic Models are considered to have passed the respective QE and exempt from appearing in the respective QE.

Qualifying Exams are offered to students that take them for the first time at the end of Spring term. Hence for students entering the programme in the Fall term, the Qualifying Exams can be taken after two terms in the programme, and for students entering in the Spring term, the Qualifying Exams can only be taken after four terms in the programme.

Students who fail one or both of the Qualifying Exams can take a makeup exam within two terms of failing the first one. Passing the Qualifying Exams or the makeup Qualifying Exams for both subjects is a requirement to stay in the PhD programme.

PhD Thesis Committee and PhD Prelim Exam

Students are required to decide on a PhD Thesis Committee by the seventh term (Fall of the third year) of their course of study. The committee must be comprised of a Chair (appointed by the Pillar Head or Graduate Committee Chair) and at least two other faculty members, excluding the supervisor and co-supervisor. The student, together with his/her advisor, would propose the Thesis Committee members, with their agreement, subject to the following restrictions and approval from the ESD Graduate Committee:

  • At least half of the chosen committee members should be research ESD faculty.

Changes to the Thesis Committee or the primary advisor after the PhD Prelim Exam require approval from the ESD Graduate Committee.

The successful completion of the PhD Prelim Exam is a necessary requirement for a doctoral student to write a PhD thesis under his/her advisor and is scheduled after the student is well advanced in his/her thesis research topic. It is an oral exam consisting of a presentation by the candidate related to his/her main research progress so far that can be scheduled only after all credit and directed research requirements have been fulfilled. The Prelim Exam Committee will be the student’s Thesis Committee. During the exam the members of the committee may wish to test the student on the breadth of his/her knowledge in their field of expertise. The student should consult the committee prior to the exam in order to better know what is expected. This Prelim Exam should be scheduled before the end of the ninth term. A PhD degree cannot be awarded until a student completes at least two units of residence after passing the PhD Prelim Exam.

After the successful completion of the PhD Prelim Exam by the candidate, he/she makes a written thesis proposal to the PhD Thesis Committee. This proposal, if accepted, is the final necessary requirement for the candidate to write his/her PhD thesis.

Thesis Defence

The final written thesis must be submitted to the PhD Thesis Committee and defended in an oral presentation. The thesis defense should be announced as an ESD seminar open for all to attend.