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Research masters

February 20, 2018

In the U.S., we have almost no research masters programs. We only admit students into a Ph.D. Overall it works well, but it requires us to be very conservative in our admissions, since we are committing to have the student come for 5 years or so. This can be a particular issue for students that discover their interest in research late in their studies, at which point their application might not be as strong.

When students like that seek my advice, I often suggest they look at applying for research Masters program in places such as my alma mater The Weizmann Institute, or other universities in Europe, Canada or elsewhere. However, I realized that there may be other places I don’t know about.

If you know of a good research masters program for theoretical computer science, could you post about it in the comments?

Update: Some good information in the comments – thank you! If you post, please say whether this a program where students have to pay tuition or is a program where there is a chance that tuition might be waived and/or students could get a stipend.

  1. February 20, 2018 9:44 pm

    I believe Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany is a good place for doing Master in TCS.
    There are a lot of TCS classes offered by many postdocs

  2. Sasha permalink
    February 20, 2018 10:24 pm

    I highly recommend my alma mater: St. Petersburg Academic University ( Although currently they only have MSc programs in Russian, as far as I understand, they’re planning to start MSc programs in English soon. There are several MSc programs where students are encouraged to do research and/or take part in software engineering projects. On weekends, active researchers teach courses on various cs topics in Computer Science Club ( One can also find good programs in Computer Science Center (

    • Sasha permalink
      February 21, 2018 12:41 pm

      Regarding your question in Update. The programs I mentioned are free, and all admitted students get stipends.

  3. February 20, 2018 11:56 pm

    The Parisian Master of Research in Computer Science (Master Parisien de Recherche en Informatique, or MPRI) in Paris (

    “The MPRI is a research-oriented master programme in computer science run jointly by the following institutions: University Paris Diderot (which is the coordinating institution), l’Ecole normale supérieure de la rue d’Ulm, Paris, henceforth ENS Ulm, and University Paris Saclay (which includes l’Ecole normale supérieure de Cachan (ENS Cachan), l’Ecole Polytechnique, and Telecom Paris Tech). Moreover the Master has special ties with the following universities and research institutions: University Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), CNRS, INRIA, and CEA.”

    Not sure whether it’s any indication, but I went through there and it would recommend it.

    • February 20, 2018 11:57 pm

      (bummer, no way to correct the typos in the last sentence.)

    • February 21, 2018 1:39 am

      Thanks to everyone-please keep them coming!!

      • February 21, 2018 3:48 am

        Regarding a question you had following another comment below:
        “Also, the programs in Israel are funded and with a stipend. Is this the case for those programs as well? (I guess this is a question about all the programs mentioned here.)”

        In this case, no, students at this master do not get a stipend. There are scholarships available, however (, and though I am no longer 100% sure I believe the masters are themselves free (i.e., the total cost of enrolling would be of the order of a couple hundred euros, the price of the mandatory student health insurance).

  4. samhop permalink
    February 21, 2018 12:30 am

    I am not sure whether it has yet had any theory students, but Cornell CS has a new Masters of Science program (, which is a 2-year masters with a written thesis advised by someone on faculty. (The program is distinct from the one-year MEng program which doesn’t have a research component.)

  5. February 21, 2018 1:05 am

    > In the U.S., we have almost no research masters programs.

    I wonder if this is more of an issue with private US universities as opposed to all US universities. See for example (“The Master of Science (MS) emphasizes research preparation and experience and, for most students, is a chance to lay the groundwork for pursuing a PhD.”) and (“The Department offers both thesis and non-thesis options for the M.S. degree”). These are just the first two public universities I checked.

    • February 21, 2018 3:13 am

      Can anyone at UCB or UMD confirm if those are good options for students that want to do theoretical computer science research?
      Also, the programs in Israel are funded and with a stipend. Is this the case for those programs as well? (I guess this is a question about all the programs mentioned here.)

  6. Chandra Chekuri permalink
    February 21, 2018 2:38 am

    UIUC (Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) has a research masters (our MS program).

  7. February 21, 2018 9:21 am

    In Russia, it is assumed that MSc is the first step to PhD, but the programs are separate.

    In 2019, we will have (hopefully) international (taught mostly in English) math and tcs research masters program in St.Petersburg State University.

    However, for 2018 all we have in St.Petersburg is tcs and cse research masters program in St.Petersburg Academic University mentioned by Sasha above, but this year it is in Russian (as far as I know).

    In any case, please let the students contact me at

  8. Alantha permalink
    February 21, 2018 2:24 pm

    There is a 1-year research masters program, ORCO (Operations Research, Combinatorics and Optimization), in Grenoble, France. The first semester consists of courses taught in English and the second, a research internship. Fees are a couple hundred Euro (same as for MPRI) and scholarships are available.

    For financial and application information, see here:

    For more info, see here:–111081.kjsp

  9. February 21, 2018 2:37 pm

    In Brazil there are some opportunities. In the São Paulo state, I would suggest:

    – Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, where I did my master and undergraduate studies;
    – Federal University of ABC, in Santo André (São Paulo City metropolitan region), where I currently have a position;
    – Institute for Computing, University of Campinas, Campinas (São Paulo country side).

    Tuition is free and there are possibilities (nowadays not so high) of receiving some stipend from the program. There’s also the option of submitting a research project to FAPESP (our local version of NSF) that if approved, provides better stipend plus travel expenses.

    There are other opportunities in other states, all tuition free, like the Federal Universities of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande so Sul, but I’m not up to date with their stipend policies these days.

  10. Pascal permalink
    February 21, 2018 3:56 pm

    The Master’s degree program at Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon offers a lot of theory classes. All classes are taught in English, and some scholarships are available for international students. See for a general description, for a list of first year courses, and for a list of second year courses.

  11. YOUSEF permalink
    February 28, 2018 6:19 am

    I think in Novosibirsk State University they have this program called ‘Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorial Optimization’. They are really talent and high level of education. In two years you will given courses in Randomized algorithm, Parametrized algorithm, Cryptography, Cryptanalysis, Graph Theory, Approximation Algorithm, Combinatorial Design, etc. And you need to do research with one of the faculty member of the program. For more information see this (

  12. March 6, 2018 3:38 pm

    The computer science department at ENS de Lyon (France) has a great master.

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