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.
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.
Studies towards the M.S. degree generally take between one and two years to complete. Upon successful graduation, students may receive an offer to continue studies in a Ph.D. program which can take a further two to four years. To obtain an M.S. degree, students have to earn 36 credits: 1/3 for core courses that provide in-depth competence in the main discipline of studies, 1/3 for elective courses that give breadth to the education, potentially including courses from other disciplines, and 1/3 for research experience which is typically acquired by research for the Thesis work. Students interested in entrepreneurship or careers in industry may earn part of the required credits from internships with local or international companies and from certain transferable skills training offered by the Innovation and Economic Development (IED).
The Ph.D. program is an exclusively full-time program, meaning that students are required to reside at KAUST for a minimum of three and a half years for entering with a B.S. degree and two and a half years if entering with an M.S. degree. It is highly advisable that future students identify and get in touch with their prospective advisors prior to applying to KAUST. Ph.D. students are required to select and complete 2-4 advanced specialized courses befitting their specialization. They should also attend the graduate seminar, Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) and one summer session. Upon successful completion of the coursework, the students are admitted to the qualifying exam. The Ph.D. degree is awarded once students have completed all course requirements and passed the Ph.D. Thesis defense.
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.
Academic Forms for Students
Procedures, Policies, and Guidelines for Students
- What is the academic year?
The academic year at KAUST lasts 10 months, usually from mid-August until mid-June. The academic year is divided into the fall semester and the spring semester, and supplementary summer sessions are also available.
- What is a credit and how many do you need?
The credit system allows a comparison of different curricula based on their total number of credits. Students can earn credits by successfully completing courses, seminars, internships and lab activities. Master’s degree students need 36 credits for graduating, while Ph.D. students need 66 to access the Qualifying Exams.
- How long is a degree at KAUST?
Master’s degree students can graduate after four semesters. Ph.D. students need a minimum of three years to complete the exams, carry out a research project and defend their theses.
- How are students assessed?
The methods of assessment at KAUST include:
- Written assignments
- Laboratory work
- Seminars attendance
- Participation in the Winter Enrichment Program
- End-of-semester examinations
- How will your work be graded?
The university uses letter grades and symbols to record the evaluation of students’ performance in a course. Grading is based on a 4.0 point system as follows:
A = 4.00 C = 2.00
A- = 3.67 C- = 1.67
B+= 3.33 D+ = 1.33
B = 3.00 D = 1.00
B- = 2.67 D- = 0.67
C+ = 2.33 F = 0.00
I = Incomplete
IP = In-Progress
W = Withdrew
S = Satisfactory
U = Unsatisfactory
WF = Withdrew-Failed
- What do ‘Grade Point Average’ (GPA) and ‘academic good standing’ mean?
In line with the North American university system, KAUST uses the grade point average (GPA) to assess student performance. A grade point average is the average value of all the grades earned in all courses over the time period from the beginning of studies in a given degree program. Students must achieve a GPA of 3.0 or above to be considered in good academic standing and continue to the next year of the degree program. Individual courses must be passed with a minimum grade of B- for course credit to be awarded.