​Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Program

The ​Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program trains students for a multitude of professional paths and advancing world-class research and research-based education through interdisciplinary partnering within engineering and science.

The ECE program encompasses technical areas of solid-state electronics, microsystems, electromagnetics, photonics, communication, networking, signal
processing, computer vision and control.

The ​Electrical and Computer Engineering program's main areas of research include the development of communication networks; CMOS integrated circuits; electronic and optics/photonics devices; micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS); various types of sensors, measurement and detection devices; as well as functional- and nano-materials.

The ​Electrical and Computer Engineering Program combines collaborative inquiry with state-of-the-art experimental labs, advanced nanofabrication and characterization lab, supercomputing and visualization facilities to provide a stimulating and challenging environment for researchers and graduate students alike. 

KAUST Program Guide


ECE Placement Test


‌ECE Qualifying Exam

Updated:  2018

The purpose of the ECE Ph.D. program qualifying exam is to evaluate the student's understanding in fundamental topics of ​Electrical and Computer Engineering and his/her ability to analyze problems and construct solutions. The exam is offered in the Fall and Spring term each year. Students must pass the exam within 12 months after joining KAUST with an MS or after converting to Ph.D. student after compelting their MS at KAUST. Students joining KAUST in January of any given year will be allowed 1.5 years to pass the qualifying exam. The qualifier is administered in the form of a written exam. Details are described below.
The exams are graded in an anonymous fashion (i.e. the professors grading the exams do not have access to the names of the students)
ECE faculty then evaluates the student’s research potential/progress (as recommended by his/her research/thesis adviser) and the results of the written exam. One of the following outcomes is possible.

  • Pass:  The student is qualified for the Ph.D. program. 
  • Fail/Retake: The student did not satisfactorily pass the qualifying exam, but is allowed to retake the exam one (1) more time. 
  • Fail: The student did not satisfactorily pass the qualifying exam on both attempts, and the student is not qualified for the Ph.D. program. Students who fail the retake are not permitted to continue and will be dismissed from Ph.D. program.

Past Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Academic Information 

KAUST Office of the Registrar

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KAUST is a graduate-level research university that provides its students with modern and challenging graduate courses and state-of-the-art research facilities, some of them unique to KAUST. Besides the individual research groups of the professors, KAUST has aggregated the expertise of scientists from different disciplines in 10 Research Centers where students can work on devising novel solutions for addressing global challenges in the areas of food, water, energy, and environment. Students at KAUST benefit from access to, and training in, the Core Labs - centrally organized facilities offering such services as device and material fabrication, analysis, characterization, and supercomputing.

KAUST is an international environment, with its faculty, scientists, engineers, staff and students representing more than 100 different nationalities. English is the official language of studies, research, and administration. KAUST takes pride in its cultural diversity, and intercultural tolerance is an indispensable attribute of each community member.

KAUST follows the North American graduate education system. For students coming from a different academic tradition it is advisable to pay special attention to terminology that may sound unfamiliar. In case of doubt, ask your Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) or Academic Advisor or the Registrar’s Office.

Graduate Degrees

Each program offers two types of degrees - Master (M.S.) degree (options with or without Thesis) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Students with a B.S. who are interested in a research career are encouraged to apply directly to the Ph.D. program, whereby admission to the actual doctoral studies is conditional to successful completion of requirements of the respective M.S. program. Degrees are designed to prepare students for careers in both industry and academia. The placement tests conducted shortly after the arrival of students at KAUST help identifying and providing any supplemental training.

Master Degree

The Master of Science (MS) degree is awarded upon successful completion of a minimum of 36 credits. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 must be achieved to graduate. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- for course credit. Read More

Doctoral Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is designed to prepare students for research careers in academia and industry. The PhD degree is awarded upon successful completion of a minimum of 72 credits. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 must be achieved to graduate. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- for course credit. Read More

KAUST Office of the Registrar Academic Forms for Students


CEMSE Academic Forms for Students

Other Training opportunities and requirements

Enrichment in the Spring and Fall

Enrichment in the Spring and Fall are educational programs with the purpose of enriching and inspiring students by exposing them to the latest research and technology developments outside their field of studies. KAUST offers its students an annual Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) and Enrichment in the Spring Program. The events consist of an array of keynotes, discussions, and masterclasses given by prominent external speakers as well as exhibits that intermingle science, technology, art and the social aspects of life. All students must mandatorily attend one WEP event.

Graduate Seminars and Distinguished Lectures

Besides the regular academic courses, students are required to attend graduate seminars as well as talks by internal and external speakers at the Program and Division level seminars. The seminars also present an opportunity to find out about the research carried out in CEMSE and to get in touch with the potential research supervisors. In addition to those seminars, the university offers a rich calendar of workshops, technical training, and lectures given by distinguished scholars from around the world. The upcoming events related to CEMSE are listed in the Events Calendar.

Innovation and Economic Development

 The Innovation and Economic Development (IED) department offers dedicated training to students interested in entrepreneurship, including

Skills Lab (English Language Support)

Further transferable skills training in English, writing, and communications are available via the Skills Lab program.

Office of the Graduate Affairs

For more information regarding generic services and training offered by KAUST, the students are advised to consult the Graduate Affairs Office.


All students at KAUST must acquire substantial research experience in order to graduate, which usually happens via the M.S. and Ph.D. thesis work. The nature of research may be theoretical, experimental, or a combination of both. Students carrying out theoretical research can benefit from access to KAUST high performance computing facilities offered by KAUST Supercomputing Lab (read more about Shaheen Supercomputer and Ibex Cluster). Students focusing on lab-based research have the opportunity to devise their own experiments in amply equipped laboratories and put their ideas to the test led by the university's motto "Through inspiration, discovery." The quality of research by CEMSE students has been recognized by various awards such as the Marconi Young Scholar Award, and the American Statistical Association ENVR Award, selection to attendance of Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings, to mention just a few.

Publications and conferences

As a rule, research results are published and/or patented. CEMSE students are expected to publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and/or high-level conferences. All research publications and conference contributions must be submitted to the of KAUST library which makes them broadly accessible within and outside KAUST. Students are also strongly encouraged to create own ORCID – a unique digital identifier that tracks all publications of a researcher regardless of his/her career moves. Students can attend research conferences and workshops in their field of studies which present excellent opportunities to expand their network of research contacts, initiate new collaborations with international researchers and potentially find the next employment after the graduation.