Rules about CPSC Appeals for Undergraduates (Including Appeals about Prerequisites)

Part 1:  General Information about the Appeal Procedure

1)  Before submitting an appeal, carefully read the rules in the appropriate section (Part 2, 3, 4, or 5) below.  This will help to determine your eligibility under department guidelines and policies.

2) Obtain permission to appeal from a Computer Science advisor, through the Advising webform.

  • If you received a "missing prerequisite" letter and you are trying to appeal the letter, then you can begin by submitting a Request for Registration Assistance webform (at, taking care to include all relevant information for the advisor who will be assigned to your case. The advisor will prompt you to submit a formal appeal via an Appeals webform (, but only if the advisor determines that a formal appeal is necessary and allowed.
  • For all appeals other than those involving prerequisites or corequisites:  Specify that you would like permission to appeal, state what you are appealing for, and present your justification (you can attach any necessary documentation).  If you prefer, you can request an in-person appointment to discuss anything of a sensitive nature. Note that we may not have in-person appointments during busier times of the year, such as at the start of a term.

3) Complete the appeals webform after receiving the consent of a Computer Science advisor through an advising request.

  • Note that the appeal decision will be made by a committee, and not by an individual.  Your instructor does not have the ability to override department rules.
  • If the appeal involves a missing prerequisite, your appeal must be submitted by the deadline indicated in the prerequisite letter that was e-mailed to you.  An appeal can — and should — be submitted before the beginning of the term (i.e., before you even get a prerequisite letter) if you know that you do not have the listed prerequisite.  The earlier, the better.  If the appeals committee does not receive appropriate documentation in a timely manner, there may not be enough time to rule on your case before the add/drop deadline.
  • Be aware that many appeals are not granted.  Therefore, you must have a backup plan.  It is not necessary to provide this backup plan to the appeals committee; but, you must have one.  For example, if you need 3 elective credits to graduate and your appeal to get into that 3-credit course is unsuccessful, then you must register for a replacement course before the add/drop deadline to avoid a delay in your graduation.  Similarly, if you have a student loan or scholarship, and you need to take a certain number of credits to continue to qualify for that loan or scholarship, then you'll need to choose another 3-credit course before the add/drop deadline.  After the add/drop deadline, it’s too late.
  • Be very careful not to misrepresent yourself in your appeal.  The department and the university take misrepresentation seriously.
  • Appeals cannot be based on your passion for Computer Science (e.g., extracurricular CS activities).  While admirable, many students share the same passion.

Part 2:  Appeals about Missing Prerequisites

  • If you are an Applied Science (Engineering) student, you MUST have the exact set of prerequisites listed in the course description in order to take a CPSC course.  You cannot replace a CPSC prerequisite with a non-CPSC course, even if you think that the replacement course is sufficiently similar.  However, note that any CPSC courses that can be taken by Applied Science students already have an alternate prerequisite chain specifically provided for Applied Science students.  This alternate path includes one or more specific APSC, CPEN, EECE, or ELEC courses.  The curriculum committees of the Computer Science department and the Electrical and Computer Engineering department carefully constructed these paths, and then signed off on them, with the understanding that if these prerequisites cannot be met, then an Applied Science student cannot take that CPSC course.
    • Other than our CPSC service courses (CPSC 259 and CPSC 261) that are specifically designed for Applied Science students, Applied Science students must register for the APSC, CPEN, EECE, or ELEC versions of courses instead of registering for the CPSC versions of those courses.  Scheduling problems, including co-op terms or course conflicts, or claims that you are planning to switch into Computer Science are not valid reasons for an appeal.
      • Example 1:  As an Applied Science student with credit for APSC 160, can I appeal to take CPSC 210?
        • No. You must have CPSC 110 as a prerequisite in order to take CPSC 210; but, note that you can take the CPSC 110 challenge exam to gain an exemption from CPSC 110.  An "exemption" means that you won't have to take the course, and you can use that exemption to get into a subsequent course (like CPSC 210) that needs that prerequisite.
      • Example 2:  As an Applied Science student with credit for both APSC 160 and CPSC 259 (two good, sequential programming courses), can I appeal to take CPSC 210?
        • No. You must have CPSC 110 as a prerequisite in order to take CPSC 210.  Again, note that you can take the CPSC 110 challenge exam to gain an exemption from CPSC 110.
      • Example 3:  My co-op term is in the Fall, and my computer networking course is only offered in the Fall.  I really want to take a networking course when I get back in January.  Can I appeal to take CPSC 317 (Computer Science's networking course) instead?
        • No, not unless you have the exact prerequisites for CPSC 317.
      • Example 4:  I took CPSC 261, and I see that CPSC 261 is on the same Science credit exclusion list as CPSC 213.  I assume this means that the courses are the same.  So, can I use CPSC 261 instead of CPSC 213 as one of my prerequisites to get into CPSC 317?
        • No.  If CPSC 213 and CPSC 261 are on the same credit exclusion list, then that means that there is sufficient overlap in the two courses such that a student can't get credit for both of them.  It does not mean that they are essentially the same course.  Therefore, you need to have CPSC 213.
      • Example 5:  I'm an Applied Science student with a lot of MATH and PHYS courses, not to mention some computing courses.  I think I have the equivalent background needed to succeed in CPSC 213.  Can I take it without having CPSC 121 and CPSC 210?
        • No.
    • As an Applied Science student, if I have a really good GPA, can I appeal to bypass a prerequisite?
      • No.
    • Besides CPSC 110's challenge exam, does the Computer Science department have any other challenge exams?  I'm prepared to take a challenge exam to prove that I know the material for a CPSC prerequisite that I'm missing.
      • No.  The only course for which we have a challenge exam is CPSC 110.
    • I'm a transfer student from another post-secondary institution.  How will prerequisites be handled for me?
      • You need to satisfy the same prerequisites as do existing Applied Science students.  If a course that you took elsewhere transferred as a CPSC course instead of an APSC, CPEN, EECE, or ELEC course, then you can use that transfer credit or exemption as if you took that CPSC course.  Transfer credits are handled on a case-by-case basis because each institution’s courses can differ significantly.  Please consult a CPSC advisor if you have any questions about your transfer credits.
  • If you are NOT an APSC student and you do not have the listed prerequisites, then you can appeal to get into the course, provided at least one of the following conditions is true:
    • You have equivalent prerequisites for the CPSC course from a post-secondary institution, and which can be verified by appropriate documentation (e.g., course outline, course learning goals).  You must supply such documentation.  Our advisors don't have time to hunt for this information.
    • You are missing one prerequisite but have at least a 90% average in CPSC courses or in CPSC + MATH courses (assuming some minimum number of credits).  You should also provide some justification for being allowed to bypass the prerequisite.
    • You are missing one prerequisite but have at least a 90% overall GPA based on the previous 30 credits.  You should also provide some justification for being allowed to bypass the prerequisite.
  • If you are transferring from another institution, you are responsible for providing the appeals committee with appropriate documentation, namely a course syllabus or a course outline for the course in question.  The documentation must:
    • Be in English
    • List the institution, and the dates during which the course was taken
    • List the prerequisites of the course
    • List the learning goals (learning outcomes) for that specific offering of the course
    • Have sufficient detail.  Sometimes course outlines are simply not available, are on password-protected Web sites, or are out-of-date.  The appeals committee doesn’t have time to go hunting for the details.  Without appropriate documentation, the appeal will be rejected.
  • Poor planning on your part is not a valid reason for granting an appeal.
  • Prior work experience, independent learning, or taking a free online course (e.g., Coursera, edX, YouTube) are not valid reasons to bypass a prerequisite.
  • “Needing one more CPSC course to graduate” is not a valid reason to be able to take a course for which you are missing a prerequisite.  This is simply poor planning.
  • If you don’t have a prerequisite (or corequisite) because you failed a course, then you cannot appeal to bypass that prerequisite to get into another course (e.g., to take CPSC 210 without having passed CPSC 110).  The following examples are not valid reasons:
    • “I already know about half of the material, and will work hard in areas that I’m weak.”
    • “My grades were good during the term, but I had a bad day on the final exam.”
  • Individual instructors do not have the ability to waive prerequisites. Prerequisites for a course have been carefully thought out, and have been agreed to by many people within (and outside of) the department, not just the current instructor.
    • The following are not good reasons for an appeal: “The instructor said the prerequisite isn’t really needed” and “The instructor says I can easily pick up the prerequisite material on my own.”
      • If the instructor truly believes that a prerequisite “isn’t really needed” for the course, then he/she should apply to the CPSC Curriculum Committee to formally get the prerequisites changed.  Other faculty members in the CPSC department (and also outside the CPSC department) will need to agree to the change.  This is a long process.

Part 3:  Appeals to Bypass Others on the Waiting List

  • If you expect to be admitted to a course by bypassing others on the waiting list, you must have a compelling reason and must clearly indicate it.  The following examples often indicate poor planning, are too general, or could apply to many students.  Therefore, they are not compelling reasons:
    • “I want to get a good co-op job next year; and having this course will improve my chances.”
    • “I want to take its successor course in the following term.”
    • “If I can’t take the course, I won’t be able to achieve my dream of becoming <fill in job title here>.”
    • “If I can’t take the course next term, it will delay my graduation.”
      • Although the previous reason is usually not a compelling reason, there is an exception:  If you are short one CPSC course before graduation, and this is supposed to be your last term at UBC, then the Department will try to force you into a CPSC course that you have the prerequisites for.  Note that it may not necessarily be a course of your choice, unless the course in question is a required course (e.g., CPSC 320) for your degree program.
        • For example, suppose you need one more CPSC 400-level course to meet your CPSC 4xx degree requirements.  You want to take CPSC 417, but CPSC 417 has a waiting list.  If CPSC 404 (or 411, 420, etc.) can handle one extra student more easily than CPSC 417, and you meet the prerequisites for CPSC 404, then the Department may force you into CPSC 404 instead.
        • However, if you will still be missing another course after this term, say an Arts elective, then that means you wouldn’t be graduating at the end of the term.  Therefore, your appeal for CPSC 417 will be rejected and you will not be forced into another course after all.
  • On the other hand, suppose you have done proper planning, are not missing a prerequisite, are on a wait list, and you think that your graduation will be delayed by not getting into a specific course.  If you believe that you should be able to bypass others on the waiting list because of unusual circumstances beyond your control, then you must explain in detail why that is the case.  You must provide a detailed plan and a timeline for the affected course(s).  Furthermore, you should state whether or not the course is required for your degree, and why not having the course will cause a serious hardship.

Part 4:  Appeals Involving a Course that You Failed Twice

  • If you have failed a course twice, and that course is not required for graduation in your degree program (specialization), then you cannot take it again.
  • If you have failed a course twice, and that course is required for graduation, then you must provide a list of the reasons for why you weren’t successful during those two times, and you must specifically state what you will do to help ensure success during the third (and therefore final) time.  These reasons must go beyond:
    • “I’ll work harder.”
    • “I didn’t manage my time well last term, and I plan to do better.”
  • There are two major steps when trying to get permission to take a course for the third time:
    1. Fill out a webform to request an appointment with a CPSC advisor, as soon as possible.  Don't wait until the start of the term to do it.  During your appointment, the advisor will discuss your situation with you, listen to your reasons, answer your questions, and provide practical advice, including what to do if your appeal is unsuccessful (or if you're not allowed to appeal).
    2. After Step (1), if the advisor allows you to proceed with an official appeal, then you need to submit an appeal webform to the Department of Computer Science.  The plan and reasons can be similar to that for Step (1), but your advisor may have given you additional information to include, or may have suggested some changes.  The appeals committee will read and evaluate your case.
      • If your appeal with the Department of Computer Science is successful, the Department will forward its decision and your appeal rationale to your home Faculty’s advising office (e.g., Faculty of Science, Faculty of Arts) for their review.  Your Faculty must approve your appeal if you are to be provided the opportunity for a third attempt. Your Faculty will notify the Department of Computer Science of their decision to either approve or deny your appeal. The Department of Computer Science will notify you of the joint appeal decision by e-mail once all steps are complete.
  • If you are taking a course for the third time, please note that the CPSC department and your home Faculty often limit the number of overall credits that you will be allowed to register for.  For example, during the Winter session, it is common for your home Faculty to limit you to no more than three courses in a given term; and in a Summer term, you will likely have to take the third-attempt course as your only course that term.
  • Note that if you failed a course twice, then you cannot take a similar course on the same credit exclusion list, without appealing.  For example, if you failed STAT 302 twice, then you cannot take MATH 302 (without appealing) because STAT 302 and MATH 302 appear on the same Faculty of Science credit exclusion list.

Part 5:  Appeals Involving Concurrent Courses or a Standing Deferred (SD) Status

  • You cannot take a course and its prerequisite in the same term unless there is a compelling reason.  An example of a compelling reason is if you are a transfer student who has taken a course that covers most of the material in CPSC 210, but not enough to qualify for an exemption from it.  In this case, you might be able to take CPSC 210 and CPSC 213 in the same term.  Examples of non-compelling reasons are: “If I don’t take them concurrently, I won’t be ready for co-op in the summer” and “I won’t be able to graduate on time.”
  • You should list extraordinary circumstances, if they are relevant to your appeal.  For example, if you are a good student with a Standing Deferred status because you didn’t write the final exam yet due to illness, then you might be able to take a subsequent course, even though the prerequisite hasn’t been completed yet.