English Language Proficiency
All new graduate students whose native language is not English are tested for English proficiency near the beginning of their first semester at UVa by taking the University of Virginia English Language Proficiency Exam (UVELPE) administered by the Center for American English Language and Culture (CAELC).
Based on the results of this test, students may be assigned to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to improve their proficiency in writing, speaking, or both. All students assigned to ESL classes are expected to complete them and may only request a deferral to the following semester for the below reasons:
1. If you are recommended for two courses, the department will approve a deferral request for one of the courses to the following semester.
2. If you are recommended for a course where all sections of the course conflict with your current academic load (as verified by an e-mail from CAELC), the department will approve a deferral request to the following semester.
3. You will be away for part or all of the semester on an internship.
The department will only consider waiver requests for ESL 912, which is not a class, but a one-on-one experience designed for International Teaching Assistants currently assigned to TA positions.
These requests should be submitted to the Graduate Office no later than one week prior to the start of classes for current students and as soon as the assignment is known for new students. Failure to request a deferral or waiver on time and subsequent failure to attend the course will result in an Unsatisfactory grade on your transcript.
In addition to the UVELPE, the Center for American English Language and Culture also administers the SPEAK test, which is a more rigorous test designed for those students who will be acting as Graduate Teaching Assistants. Only those students who have been awarded a GTA funding package and will be serving as a paid GTA in their first semester need to take the SPEAK test upon arrival. The department submits the names of those people needing to take the SPEAK to CAELC and they reach out to you to schedule the exam. The SPEAK score determines what tasks you are allowed to perform in a GTA capacity from lab set-up to significant student interaction. Just like the UVELPE, the SPEAK score will determine which, if any, ESL courses you will need to complete.
Successful completion of all recommended ESL classes will result in the designation of No Further Training. If you are recommended for both speaking and writing courses, you are expected to receive a No Further Training designation in both.
Independent Study (ECE 6993/7993)
Any student planning to study graduate course material on an independent basis under the supervision of a faculty member must submit a syllabus for ECE 6993 or ECE 7993 to the EE Graduate Office. This syllabus may be in the form of a beginning‑of‑course memo and must be submitted no later than the add deadline of the semester in which the student registers for Independent Study. The syllabus must include textbooks and references to be used during the study as well as a detailed outline of topics to be covered. Samples of problems solved and/or copies of any reports written during the course must be provided for the student's file by the end of the semester exam period. All Independent Study courses must be completed within the period of the normal semester, unless extenuating circumstances prevent the student from completing the work. No more than one Independent Study course (3 credits) may be applied towards an M.S., M.E., or PhD degree.
Master's Project (ECE 6995/7995)
Subject to the approval of their advisor, an M.E. student may include up to six hours of project work toward their degree program. MS and Ph.D. students cannot use 6995 or 7995 to fulfill degree course requirements. A project proposal must be submitted to the EE Graduate Office no later than the add deadline of the semester in which the student registers. When the project has been completed, a copy of the project report must be supplied to the EE Graduate Office for inclusion in the student’s academic file.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar (ECE 6505)
This one-hour weekly seminar course features presentations given by ECE faculty members and visitors, to introduce various research areas, topics, and advances in Electrical and Computer Engineering. It is a one-credit course required for all first-year ECE graduate (ME, MS and Ph.D.) students. This course is offered only in the Fall semester.
Supervised Graduate Teaching Experience (ECE 6996)
It is the faculty’s belief that this experience is valuable for the professional development of our Ph.D. students. In addition, the department and its undergraduates benefit from additional teaching support. It is expected that such an assignment will require about five hours per week and may be a include laboratory support, office hours for tutoring, grading assistance, or a combination.
Ph.D. students in the ECE Department must pass one semester of a guided teaching experience. Students must contact the ECE Graduate Office at least 30 days before classes begin to indicate they wish to fulfill the requirement. If students have not already confirmed working with a specific professor, they will be assigned to one. The graduate student will be enrolled by the department admin in ECE 6996, evaluated by the course instructor, and assigned a pass/fail grade as appropriate. All students who are not native English speakers (regardless of TOEFL waiver) must take the SPEAK test before being allowed to satisfy this requirement.
Note: This requirement may be met by serving as a paid GTA (ECE 8897/ECE 9897) in the department. No additional compensation is provided for this one-time experience.
ECE 8999/9999 – Thesis/Dissertation
All students conducting research as part of their degree requirements should enroll in one of these classes to maintain a formal record of their research progress. Enrollment in these classes is irrespective of funding type. Students may choose between 0 and 12 credits of research each semester, depending on what is needed to maintain a full-time student status of 12 total credits.
MS students should enroll in ECE 8999 – Thesis. PhD students should enroll in ECE 9999 – Dissertation. All students should enroll in the section with their advisor as the instructor. If you do not see a section with your advisor, please let the graduate office know so that one can be added.
These credits DO NOT count toward the graded credit requirement.
ECE 8897/9897 – Graduate Teaching Instruction
All students acting as paid teaching assistants for the department should enroll in at least one credit of this course in the semester they are working to maintain a formal record of their experience. Students may choose more than one credit if needed to maintain a full-time student status of 12 total credits.
MS/ME students should enroll in ECE 8897. PhD students should enroll in ECE 9987.
These credits DO NOT count toward the graded credit requirement.
Financial support may be provided by the department in the form of a Fellowship, Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) or Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA). The student should consider such support an honor and make every effort to meet the requirements specified for such support. Financial aid may be terminated at any time if the department or the project supervisor feels the student is not performing to the professional standards expected of a graduate engineer.
A student receiving a department fellowship will typically be required to provide some type of service for this financial assistance. This service may include such jobs as helping a faculty member develop a new research area or working as a graduate teaching assistant. The student should meet with the faculty member and report progress on a regular basis. Fellowships are generally given to supplement GRA and GTA awards. Fellowships are usually paid monthly in eight equal installments during the academic year.
Graduate teaching assistants are assigned to specific courses and are expected to prepare adequately before each meeting. Some preliminary preparation may be required before the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, the GTA should check with the faculty member in charge of the course to make sure that all duties have been completed. The member of faculty responsible for the course will issue detailed instructions for GTAs. Generally, first year international students are not eligible for a GTA position, unless they pass the English Proficiency Test and SPEAK Test.
Graduate Research Assistantship support is provided for assistance on sponsored research contracts or grants. This work not only aids the research project but may also provide a topic for the student’s thesis or dissertation. The student is expected to complete the work specified by the project supervisor in a professional engineering manner. The project supervisor and the student should discuss what is to be expected from the student during the employment period and the student should expect to make a progress report (verbal or written) every week. Master’s students receiving financial assistance will normally be required to be enrolled in the M.S. (thesis) program. This is particularly true for students receiving a GRA.
Financial aid is not automatically renewable from one year to the next. It is the student’s responsibility to make arrangements with the project supervisor of their research regarding the possibility of continued employment for the next academic year. Students interested in a GTA position should contact the ECE Graduate Office.
All students receiving financial assistance are responsible for providing withholding tax information and a Social Security Card to the Payroll Office and completing Federal Employment Eligibility Form I9. Please report to the Budget Office for the School of Engineering and Applied Science in Room A205, Thornton Hall. Failure to do so will preclude being placed on payroll. All male students must complete the Selective Service Form: this form is required by the Commonwealth of Virginia and your employment will be terminated if it is not completed on time.