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Massachusetts Institute of Technology


2009 Accreditation Report

Institutional Self-Study

4. The Academic Program

MIT students are living in a dynamic age. They study with a diverse group of peers in a world that seems much smaller today than it did at the time of the last NEASC visit 10 years ago. Scientific and technological innovations occur at rapid speed. New academic pursuits blur traditional disciplinary lines and open up exciting new ways to address problems that seemed unsolvable five years ago. New technologies raise undreamed-of ethical issues in the context of an evolving society. How will the Institute ensure that its academic program, which is anchored in MIT's rigorous science and technology tradition, remains flexible enough to address this changing landscape? For much of the last decade, this question has motivated curricular thinking at the undergraduate level and influenced the direction of the graduate program. It also has inspired the many changes made to MIT's living and learning environment since the last accreditation visit. As we evolve, we remain committed to our institutional mission—today and tomorrow. For this reason, we have used excerpts of our mission statement to help frame and organize much of this chapter.



The mission of MIT is to... educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world.
    — MIT mission statement

General Institute Requirements

MIT is organized into academic departments that carry a number and are called Courses (for example, civil and environmental engineering is Course 1; mechanical engineering is Course 2). The academic departments offer undergraduate degrees (majors) and minors. A complete listing of bachelor degree programs and minor degree programs may be found in Appendix 7.

When students apply to MIT, they are applying to the entire Institute, not to a specific major or school. All first-year students begin MIT with an undeclared major. At the conclusion of the first year, students may choose any major without any additional requirements or admission procedures. The General Institute Requirements (GIRs) help provide a common core of prerequisite knowledge that virtually all departments depend on for the success of their majors. In addition, the GIRs provide the foundation for a general, well-rounded education at MIT. The GIRs are described in detail at Generally, they cover three discrete areas with different requirements.

In addition to the Science, HASS, and Communication Requirements, physical education (PE) is another GIR, designed to help students lead a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Each student must earn eight PE points (two points per quarterly class) and meet a swiming requirement.

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The freshman year

First-year students enter MIT with different academic backgrounds and learning styles, and they may choose from a variety of options to complete the core subjects and prepare for further undergraduate study. A typical first-year program includes five of the six science core subjects in mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry, and two of the eight HASS subjects. Students may round out their programs with electives, typically including a seminar.

As an alternative, first-year students may participate in one of four learning communities: the Experimental Study Group (ESG), the Media Arts and Sciences (MAS) program, Terrascope, or Concourse. Approximately 20 percent of the freshmen (200 students) choose one of these options.

Although the programs differ in pedagogy, all four offer a high level of student-faculty interaction and allow students to experiment educationally within a supportive community. In 2005, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) reviewed these alternative freshman programs and strongly endorsed their continuation. The CUP concluded that they "provide educational experiences that go beyond conventional classroom teaching and that have considerable value to a significant fraction of our freshman class." 15  Participants consistently acknowledge the contribution of these programs to their learning and to their empowerment as members of the academy.

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Majors and minors


Approximately 87 percent of MIT undergraduates major in either science or engineering, with a preponderance in engineering (59 percent). Appendix 7 lists the degrees offered, and the degree requirements for each major program are clearly articulated at

The Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (described in Chapter 5, "Faculty") administers the advising system for entering students and provides programming and resources to help ensure academic success. Students are encouraged to explore the entire range of majors available at the Institute. A comprehensive orientation program welcomes all first-year students and introduces them to MIT's vast academic and research opportunities. During this orientation, freshmen meet informally with faculty, staff, and upperclass students, and they explore a diverse residential community that fosters choice and creativity. Throughout the first year, academic fairs, lectures, seminars, and other programs help students determine which major will suit them best. At the conclusion of the first year, students declare a major without being subject to additional requirements or admissions procedures. There is sufficient overlap and flexibility for students to change majors with relative ease in the second year.

Fall-term subjects for all first-year students are graded on a pass/no-record basis. In a change since the 1999 NEASC visit, spring subjects are graded A/B/C/no record. A 2008 report by a special subcommittee of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) found that both fall and spring grades (including hidden grades) for freshmen have improved since the grading change was implemented, and although it is impossible to attribute this shift solely to the new grading policy, that is clearly a key factor. 16 

In 2001 MIT added a Sophomore Exploratory Option as an experiment to encourage students to look into classes they might not normally take, to help ease the transition into the sophomore year by creating a flexible grading option and to further consideration of unconventional majors. Through this program, sophomores may designate one class in each of their fall and spring terms as "Exploratory," which can be changed to listener status until Registration Day of the following regular term. No credit is received for listener subjects and they do not appear on transcripts. Between 25 and 30 percent of the sophomores designated a subject as Exploratory each term between fall 2003 and spring 2007, and this number was closer to 35 percent in Fall 2008. The data — both quantitative and qualitative — show that students use and benefit from the opportunity to explore inside and outside their majors, and they do so in ways that were both anticipated and unexpected. Students value the Exploratory Option as a way to try challenging subjects within their newly declared majors and explore subjects in other academic areas at a reduced risk to their grade point average. In a March 2005 survey conducted by the Teaching and Learning Laboratory, 33 percent of students reported that their designation of a subject or subjects as Exploratory was related to their interest in doing a minor or second SB program, and 11 percent reported that it led to their decision to switch majors between their sophomore and junior years. It is clear from the data that students value this flexible grading option highly. 17  Based on the recommendations of the CUP, the faculty voted in March 2008 to make the Sophomore Exploratory Option a permanent grading option.

To further encourage broad exploration of interests, full-time MIT students may take subjects for credit at Harvard University, Wellesley College, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts without paying additional tuition.

An important change in Institute policy, one recommended by the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons, will now make it easier for students to major in more than one field. This change reflects MIT's emphasis on multidisciplinary education and the reality that more and more fields of study are becoming interlinked. Until spring 2008, students could major in one field, or they could pursue two SB degrees by completing departmental requirements in the second field (including 90 additional units), in addition to completing in full the requirements for the first degree. The faculty voted in spring 2008 to authorize a change from double degrees to double majors. A student who plans to graduate in 2010 or later will be able to earn a bachelor's degree with two majors by successfully completing the GIRs and the departmental requirements for each major. During the many discussions of the proposal, a consensus emerged about the advantages of replacing the second SB program with double majors. The review committees, which included both faculty and students, concluded that the additional 90-unit requirement for a second SB had only limited educational value because no clear academic guidelines existed for those units. It was misleading to suggest that students were earning two full degrees, since in pursuing the second degree, they did not repeat the General Institute Requirements or any other general graduation requirements. Thus the term "double major" more accurately reflects the educational content and purpose of the program.

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A number of fields in all five schools offer minor programs that provide significant experience in the discipline. Students may complete up to two minors and those who do have their fields of study specified as part of their bachelor of science degrees, thus earning public recognition for focused work in multiple disciplines. Minor programs consist of five to seven subjects, though generally six. These subjects may count toward General Institute Requirements and departmental program requirements. A student may not take a minor in the area of his or her major, with one exception: students pursuing Course 4 degrees in architectural design or building technology may take a minor in the Course 4 HASS field of history of art and architecture. In addition, minors are not allowed in either field of composite degrees, which combine two different fields (for example, the SB in mathematics with computer science, the SB in humanities and science, or the SB in humanities and engineering).

In response to the increasingly interdisciplinary interests of our faculty and students, a governance structure for a new energy minor was proposed and approved as an experiment at the May 2009 faculty meeting. The energy minor, which will launch in fall 2009, is designed to complement any undergraduate major at MIT. It consists of six subjects (four subjects plus 24 units). 18  A faculty committee with members drawn from all five schools will have primary academic oversight of the program. Experimenting with a novel governance structure, the committee will report to an Inter-School Educational Council. This new approach reflects the multidisciplinary nature of energy education and research, along with a desire to retain the active engagement of all five schools and the many departments that have participated in shaping the minor. The resulting Institute-wide character of the minor is expected to send a strong signal that MIT takes energy seriously and believes energy studies can be coherently coupled with any major.

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Academic quality and integrity

MIT's educational programs continuously undergo revision to keep pace with advances in research, technology, and pedagogy. As indicated in Chapter 3, faculty members across the Institute express a shared responsibility for keeping the undergraduate program balanced and aligned with the intellectual frontiers represented by the research activities of the entire Institute. The Rules and Regulations of the Faculty articulate how MIT systematically assures the quality and integrity of its academic programs and the credits and degrees awarded.

Faculty committees are vital to this effort. The Committee on the Undergraduate Program oversees the undergraduate academic experience, including the freshman year and interdepartmental programs, paying special attention to long-term directions. This committee encourages innovation in undergraduate educational policy, and it has authority to approve and supervise limited educational experiments. The Committee on Curricula, is responsible for approving all changes to the academic programs. Chart 4A shows the main responsibilities of each committee; additional details can be found on their respective websites ( and

Chart 4A: Standing Faculty Committees Responsible for Undergraduate Education

Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP)

Committee on Curricula (CoC)

  • Oversees the total undergraduate program, including freshman-year subjects, undergraduate advising, and interdepartmental programs
  • Oversees the General Institute Requirements (GIRs), including periodic review of the Communication Requirement (through a permanent subcommittee)
  • Sets and reviews long-term educational policy
  • Encourages educational innovation in the undergraduate program, including approving and supervising limited educational experiments
  • Oversees changes in undergraduate subjects of instruction
  • Revises or terminates existing curricula (including majors and minors)
  • Creates new curricula (including majors and minors)
  • Makes additions and deletions to the list of subjects that satisfy the REST Requirement and the Lab Requirement
  • Acts on student petitions for exceptions to the GIRs

Since the last accreditation report, there have been numerous changes to the academic programs, including the approval of a new major in biological engineering, a merger of the Department of Ocean Engineering with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the approval of an architecture exchange program with the University of Hong Kong. An overview of curricular changes can be found in the team room.

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The undergraduate educational commons

In 2003, then-president Charles Vest convened the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons to address the goals, content, and structure of the common aspects of MIT's undergraduate education. The Task Force report (, published in 2006, engendered much feedback on campus.

The Task Force found that overall MIT's curriculum has been highly successful. The Institute provides an education grounded in the fundamentals of science, yet well seasoned with a sophisticated understanding of human culture. MIT produces well-rounded graduates ready to lead and to help confront the world's great scientific challenges. As the Task Force report stated:

MIT's curriculum continues to prepare graduates for careers and lives that are varied and rewarding. MIT undergraduates go on to further graduate education at a much higher level than those of our peers, which is just one indicator of the extent to which students educated at MIT are being prepared to pursue their intellectual passions with even greater depth and rigor. Institute graduates pursue careers that take them far from their original majors, which are overwhelmingly in science and engineering. They naturally progress to become entrepreneurs, business leaders, engineers, physicians, and research scientists. Long after they have left MIT, alumni report that creativity and the ability to deal with new challenges were two of the greatest contributions that MIT made to their adult lives. 19 

As successful as MIT's curriculum has been, the Task Force maintained that alterations were necessary to reflect changes in the nature of science, in culture and society, and in the student population. Concerns were raised about rapidly expanding knowledge, changing cultural norms, a need for creativity and resourcefulness in the technical workplace, and the emergence of new disciplines and subdisciplines. These concerns led to the conclusion that the General Institute Requirements needed to be more flexible. Specifically, the Task Force urged that more opportunities be created for active learning, particularly in the first year, and that curricular predictability and coherence be balanced with creativity and innovation. Pages 34 and 35 of the Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons summarized the group's four major recommendations:

The Task Force report was discussed in many settings across the entire MIT community, including Institute faculty meetings, a special edition of the MIT Faculty Newsletter in February 2007, and ad hoc meetings with departments, faculty committees, and other interested parties. These conversations have greatly influenced the faculty's continuing work on the GIRs. The overall response to the Task Force report demonstrated that further work was needed to reconcile the structure of the GIRs with the dynamic challenges facing undergraduate education at MIT. Accordingly, in October 2007, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) appointed a new subcommittee. The Educational Commons Subcommittee (ECS) was charged with reviewing and refining the Task Force work, with the ultimate goal of proposing a set of concrete changes to the general MIT undergraduate curriculum.

The ECS presented its proposal to the faculty in November 2008. The subcommittee recommended changes to two portions of the GIRs: the Science, Math, and Engineering (SME) Requirement and the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement.

With regard to the SME requirement, the ECS proposed the following:

With regard to the HASS portion of the GIRs, the ECS proposed these actions:

The ECS proposed that the CUP, through two new subcommittees, 20  oversee implementation and evaluation of the proposed changes to the GIRs. The ECS also recommended evaluation of the effects of the changes on other GIRs, specifically the REST Requirement and the Laboratory Requirement, and on departmental programs.

The ECS proposal was discussed at three faculty meetings before being turned down at a special faculty meeting in February 2009. Although the motion to approve the proposal carried by a simple majority, it failed to receive the three-fifths majority vote required to change MIT's Rules and Regulations of the Faculty.

Disagreement focused on changing the Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Requirement. Several faculty members believe the curriculum is fine and requires no change. For others seeking more flexibility, choice, and excitement in the curriculum, especially in the first year, the ECS proposals did not go far enough. Still other faculty members believe that responsibility for teaching the science core should remain only in those disciplines currently teaching the science GIRs.

Although the comprehensive resolution did not pass as a package, there continues to be much progress in the faculty's efforts to improve the GIRs. Innovations in the science core and REST subjects include ongoing initiatives in math, design and project-based subjects, and a pilot subject in statistics. Faculty groups have discussed the concepts behind and materials for two new categories of GIR classes—elements of design and SME foundations—and specific subjects are being developed and rigorously assessed in preparation for further discussions of GIR reforms in science and engineering. The last several years of developing experimental subjects at MIT have provided a good model for capturing student interest and implementing and assessing curricular reforms. Regular instructor meetings to share experiences and insights have proven useful, as have new assessment tools.

In the most comprehensive development regarding the GIRs, the leadership in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences indicated their wish to move ahead with changes to the HASS Requirement, independent of other suggested GIR reforms. At the May 2009 faculty meeting, a proposal to modify the HASS Requirement was overwhelmingly approved. The change will require students to take one subject in each of the three categories—humanities, arts, and social sciences—effective no later than with the undergraduates entering in fall 2011. This change is intended to simplify the current HASS distribution requirement and provide students with appropriate disciplinary range and choice in their HASS courses. Three important aspects of the requirement remain the same: students must complete eight HASS subjects; concentrations will continue to consist of three or four subjects, depending on the area; and the HASS Requirement will continue to overlap with another GIR, the Communication Requirement, in the two CI-H subjects.

In the same May 2009 vote, the faculty approved the creation of a new subcommittee of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) to oversee the HASS Requirement. The faculty also resolved to give high priority in the next several years to encouraging and assessing innovation in the HASS GIRs, including experimenting with pedagogies or interdisciplinary content. In addition, the faculty encouraged the academic deans and faculty in the humanities, arts, and social sciences to continue developing their experimental First Year Focus Program. This set of subjects designed particularly for freshmen is expected to provide foundational training and opportunities for shared conversation on important topics. The CUP will report back no later than the fall semester of 2014 with an assessment of the program; this assessment will include a recommendation as to whether all students should be required to take one First Year Focus subject in partial fulfillment of the HASS Requirement. Examples of recent subjects include Globalization: The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between; Mapping Controversies; and Learning from the Past: Drama, Science and Performance.

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Ongoing curricular innovation

We are optimistic about continuing improvements in the curriculum. Innovation in the GIRs, which was attempted before and during the Task Force discussions, addresses some of the comments in the 1999 NEASC team report. Two efforts are particularly significant examples: the introduction of flavors in biology and technology-enabled active learning (TEAL) in physics.

Independent of other curricular reform, the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR), the permanent CUP subcommittee that oversees the Communication Requirement, undertook an assessment of the implementation of this new GIR. The Communication Requirement was implemented in 2001, taking effect with the class of 2005. The requirement ensures that students get substantial instruction and practice in writing and speaking throughout their undergraduate program. Students must complete at least one communication-intensive (CI) subject per year. Two of the required subjects are chosen from a group of designated subjects offered in the humanities, arts, and social sciences as part of the HASS Requirement. These CI-H subjects provide students with generally useful skills in expository writing and speaking in the context of HASS subject matter. The other two required CI subjects are taken in the student's major department or, in specific instances, a cognate field. These CI-M subjects provide experiences that prepare students for effective communication in their chosen discipline. As a consequence of this structure, a wide variety of communication-intensive subjects (approximately 120 CI-Hs and 134 CI-Ms) are offered in 34 majors across all five schools. These subjects encompass a number of formats, including laboratory classes in which students write, revise, and present lab reports; seminars in which they prepare presentations, lead discussions, and write extensive essays; senior theses; capstone design classes; and independent-research projects.

SOCR found that the Communication Requirement has been well received, with both faculty and students valuing the content and pacing of CI subjects. SOCR will now focus on developing a best-practice inventory for teaching communication skills that will be shared with the MIT community. The subcommittee also plans to work with communication experts from the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and its subsidiary, Writing Across the Curriculum, to identify effective teaching collaborations between faculty and other instructional staff.

Over the next several years, SOCR will also work toward establishing criteria for the designation of communication-intensive subjects that focus more directly on educational objectives. This may allow faculty more flexibility in designing CI subjects and integrating CI content. One such experiment has already occurred. Beginning in spring 2007, a number of project-based pilot subjects were designated as CI subjects. In these subjects, students have the opportunity to develop teamwork skills and to integrate knowledge and techniques from different disciplines to complement the traditional science-core subjects. While these subjects will likely continue to be offered, spring 2009 marked the third and final yearlong experiment to award CI credit for some of the subjects. With the conclusion of this experiment, SOCR will report to the Committee on the Undergraduate Program on the lessons learned. Assessments of student performance in these subjects and faculty and student experiences will help inform decisions regarding future experiments.

Meanwhile, in response to recent faculty committee and task force reports encouraging innovation in the GIRs, faculty members have been developing and teaching experimental HASS First Year Focus subjects for several years. Subjects have been assessed, and results reported to instructors and the CUP. Subjects that have been offered repeatedly include How to Stage a Revolution (a history offering) and the Art of the Probable (a literature class), along with interdisciplinary offerings linking anthropology, music, and literature (The Supernatural in Music, Literature and Culture) and theater arts and literature (Learning from the Past: Drama, Science, Performance). In each case, the Teaching and Learning Laboratory found that students appreciated the scope and interdisciplinarity of the subjects, even when they had not considered this last aspect in choosing the class. The experiment continues, as more subjects are being developed, taught, and assessed.

Faculty teaching First Year Focus subjects have met to share their vision, experiences, and ideas with each other and with administrators responsible for assessing the subjects and the program as a whole. Many of the First Year Focus subjects have also been designated CI-H and have served as HASS distribution subjects. With reforms to the HASS Requirement, refining the relationship between First Year Focus and CI-H subjects will be of particular interest in the coming years.

In one example of a recently implemented First Year Focus subject, six different programs in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences are collaborating on a new interdisciplinary subject called "Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies." This subject has two main goals. First, it explores and demystifies certain definitions and (mis)representations of "blackness." Second, it analyzes the power struggles around various ideas of "blackness," and the political and socio-economic consequences of these ideas throughout history and across various disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, linguistics, writing and the performing arts.

Subjects like Black Matters are part of MIT's commitment to preparing students to succeed in a complex global environment. Our faculty are increasingly addressing issues of diversity and human variation in many areas of their research and teaching. Classes ranging from Gender, Sexuality, and Society to Medicine, Religion, and Politics in Africa and the African Diaspora explore topics of power, ideology, and status in different periods and different cultures. Because they often challenge students' lifelong assumptions and unconscious biases, such courses can be intense, even transformative experiences—powerful preparation for creative leadership in a diverse environment.

With discussion continuing about changes to the General Institute Requirements, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program will be integrally involved with any experiments in subjects proposed for the GIRs and any further action on the Task Force recommendations. One challenge we foresee is that curricular innovation will require additional resources. The dean for undergraduate education has an annual budget to support and encourage imaginative initiatives in subjects, departments, and schools. To date, however, most general curricular innovation has been funded by private philanthropy designated for this purpose. In addition to special funds endowed by alumni classes, the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education has been instrumental in providing seed funding for projects to enhance and potentially transform the academic experience of MIT undergraduates. Over the last 10 years, these funds have supported more than 200 projects, for multiple years, resulting in major changes such as TEAL, a FUNdamentals of Engineering subjects, additions to the Course 6 (electrical engineering and computer science) curriculum, an interdisciplinary Bioethics subject, and a flash-forward, flash-back project connecting math concepts in Course 16 (aeronautics and astronautics) subjects.

It will be critical to maintain a pipeline of funding to manage curricular innovation effectively. Our $500 million fundraising initiative, called the Campaign for Students, aims to raise approximately $100 million for various curriculum innovations. The success of that campaign, and the will of the faculty, will dictate how aggressively and quickly curricular change occurs. Additional curricular change funded by the general Institute budget may be constrained by the current budget reductions. Departments, too, may have fewer resources for educational innovation within academic units. Nonetheless, the Institute remains encouraged by the continuing interest in curricular innovation on the part of both the faculty and the school deans. In the years ahead, MIT will need to examine the way it funds and supports curricular experiments to ensure that these innovations continue.

As MIT pursues educational innovation, we are keenly aware of the power of technology to alter the way that students process what they are learning, and consequently change the way they construct knowledge. The work of MIT's Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT), located within the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, engages in exploratory activities to identify technology-based solutions for new modes of collaboration, production, and the sustainable delivery of educational resources and experiences. OEIT not only acts as a conduit to communicate the availability of educational innovations more widely to faculty but also facilitates the adoption of these innovations, wherever they may have been developed, to help improve teaching and learning at MIT. The office places particular importance on developing and supporting tools and applications for a wide range of courses that advance the recommendations of the MIT Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons. The work of OEIT is described further in Chapter 7, and case studies and publications can be found at

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MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery.
    — MIT mission statement

The Institute's commitment to joining education with the creation of new knowledge has generated a host of scientific breakthroughs and technological advances. MIT's best researchers teach in the undergraduate program, and seniors responding to a 2008 survey reported participating in research with faculty at nearly double the rate of students at peer schools. Independent scholarship and research are an integral part of the Institute's undergraduate programs as well as the foundation for graduate education. As a result, education at MIT is a continuum—any undergraduate may take any graduate subject for which he or she has fulfilled the appropriate prerequisites.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) is the best example of students engaging with faculty as junior colleagues in the research enterprise. UROP allows undergraduates to participate with faculty in a wide range of research activities in every department and most interdisciplinary laboratories and Centers. Because of their intensity, rigor, and relevance, UROP projects are the reason many undergraduates now choose MIT. Almost 550 MIT faculty supervise UROPers, and in any given year, the Institute approves more than 2,500 projects (see Chart 4B for enrollment figures). For the past three graduating classes, 85 percent of graduates participated in at least one UROP during their undergraduate career. A survey of 2,700 undergraduates found that UROP projects help students develop research skills and technical expertise, learn to work as part of a team, develop writing and presentation skills, explore fields of study, establish relationships with faculty, and identify a mentor. Almost 12 percent of MIT students publish in a refereed journal before graduating, and UROP participation can also influence a student's decision to go on to graduate or professional school.

Chart 4B

Research is also an integral component of regular course work for MIT students. Research facilities often serve as classrooms; students learn about materials science, for example, in micro/nano fabrication labs, and they study nuclear science at MIT's Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor facility. The Institute is further characterized by the myriad classroom activities that introduce students to the excitement of discovery, starting early in their academic careers. A prime example is the robot-design contest that is a highlight of the first design subject in mechanical engineering (2.007). For a glimpse of other pedagogical approaches that engage undergraduates in their education, see the video Extraordinary Learning @ MIT (

The Independent Activities Period (IAP) also provides opportunities for flexible teaching and learning and for independent study and research. IAP takes place over four weeks in January, when faculty members and students are freed from the constraints of regularly scheduled subjects. Students are encouraged to explore the educational resources of the Institute by taking specially designed subjects, arranging individual projects with faculty members, organizing forums, and participating in contests, tours, artistic events, or athletic endeavors. They may also pursue independent interests whether on or off campus. Departmental programs may require students to complete a subject (of no more than 12 units) during one IAP. The 6.270 blog is about a student-managed subject during IAP that teaches students about robotic design by giving them the hardware, software, and information they need to design, build, and debug their own robot (

The Institute's renowned Edgerton Center ( is another valuable resource for experiential learning. The Center is dedicated to fostering project-oriented educational opportunities for undergraduates in any discipline. The staff supports activities in high-speed imaging, design for the developing world, educational outreach to grades K–12, digital imaging, electronics, robotics, and underwater instrumentation. The Center also runs a student shop where any MIT student can learn to use machine tools to work on personal projects, team projects, or UROPs. Through invention and discovery, students are better able to master concepts too often presented only in theory through lectures and problem sets. For example, in the Strobe Project Lab, students first learn a variety of high-speed imaging techniques and then apply them to an experimental research project.

The Edgerton Center is home to more than 20 student clubs and contest teams that emphasize hands-on projects. These include a solar electric vehicle team, a Formula SAE team (to design race cars), and several robotics and autonomous vehicle teams. The Center also offers UROPs in many areas and works with the Public Service Center (described below) to integrate community-service projects into the curriculum of a class. For example, students in SP.784, Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries, modify wheelchairs to suit difficult environments found in developing countries. Inspired by working for a wheelchair nongovernmental organization in Zambia, one student developed a bicycle-drawn ambulance that has been adopted by the World Health Organization.

Individual hands-on learning has a long history at the Institute. MIT and its students created the Hobby Shop in 1937 as a place on campus where members could take an idea—one that was not a course assignment or a lab project—and turn it into a working invention. Unlike professional machine shops and laboratories on campus, the Hobby Shop is not affiliated with any one department, and membership is open to anyone at the Institute. On any given day, students might be crafting a new piece of equipment for a lab experiment, creating a new product, or tinkering with an interesting idea for fun. Since 1994, the shop has had over 2,700 different members, including almost 1,400 undergraduates, over 800 graduate students, 40 faculty, and numerous staff and alumni. Beyond fostering creativity and an inclusive, intentional community where individuals with shared interests help each other, the Hobby Shop provides tools and space to bring ideas to life. Students have built storage lockers for families living in a Boston shelter; crafted a hand-held piece of ophthalmologic equipment for use in developing countries; created a specialized bioreactor to facilitate stem-cell research; designed and built stereo speakers and taught others to do the same; and turned pieces of wood into electric guitars and kayaks. The Hobby Shop puts MIT's motto of mens et manus into action every day.

Despite the Institute's strong tradition of hands-on learning, the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons commented on the need for more diverse pedagogies in the first year to excite students about learning: "The first-year curriculum will benefit greatly from the wider availability of project-based experiences that are especially effective at infusing excitement, developing greater creative capacity, and establishing the importance of self-directed learning." 22  In light of this recommendation, a number of first-year project-based subjects were developed. A complete list of these subjects, with descriptions and photos, is available in the accreditation team room. Also available are the results of rigorous assessments that indicate that the project-based subjects increase students' efficacy in technical problem solving, teamwork, and communication. These experiments have served to inform new thinking on project-based and design experiences across the Institute. We are continuing with existing project-based subjects and also developing new subjects in many areas, including the Bernard M. Gordon – MIT Engineering Leadership Program (described later in this chapter) and the new undergraduate curriculum in Course 6.

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Much of the discussion in the Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons centered on how best to prepare students to contribute to a rapidly changing world. Ensuring flexibility in the curriculum is key, as noted earlier in the chapter. This section focuses on three additional approaches: emphasizing a global perspective, encouraging the development of leadership skills, and fostering a spirit of service.

Global education

The Institute is committed to... working with others to bring... knowledge to bear on the world's great challenges.
    — MIT mission statement

Designing global-education opportunities for science and engineering students poses a particular challenge. Science and engineering curricula include significant core requirements—courses that need to be taken at the home institution. Such classes are typically highly structured and tightly sequenced, making it difficult to find a window when students can go abroad for a semester, much less an entire academic year. A 2008 survey indicated that only 8.8 percent of MIT's graduating seniors had participated in typical study-abroad programs—a smaller percentage than that for liberal arts students but similar to other engineering and science students.

We have responded to the challenge by developing global-education opportunities that are uniquely MIT. As a result, 36 percent of the seniors surveyed in 2009 reported having some kind of international education experience before graduating (up from 24 percent in 2006).

Just as with other aspects of an MIT education, there is a broad range of global activities for students to choose from. These run the gamut from traditional study-abroad programs to innovative short-term projects, but most are infused with the Institute's philosophy of mens et manus. One example is MISTI—the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives—with internship programs in nine countries (see After several semesters of cultural and language preparation on campus, MISTI students plunge into rigorous, practical work experience in industry and in academic labs and offices. The goal of MISTI is to equip students with a kind of cross-cultural human radar that helps them detect subtle cultural signals and build strong, trusting, productive working relationships across cultural boundaries and around the world. MISTI also organizes the MISTI Global Seed Funds, which encourage MIT students to work on faculty-led international research and projects; the program awarded $500,000 to faculty for international projects last year.

Other successful programs include the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (, which allows MIT juniors to study at the University of Cambridge in England; the International Research Opportunities Program, in which students work side by side with foreign researchers overseas; and D-Lab and the Public Service Center, which help students undertake hands-on public-service projects in developing countries. Through our Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre, undergraduates spend the summer collaborating on research projects with faculty and students in Singapore. One current undergraduate is creating a 3-D visualization of the country's water distribution network that will display a 24-hour simulation of demand, pressure, and flow through the system.

MIT's offerings respond to the unique needs of our undergraduates by providing options that appeal to varied interests and are manageable within the constraints of a rigorous curriculum. As the Institute considers how to advance global education even further, these distinctive programs provide models for growth. Our expansion strategy will involve an integrative approach that may include modifying the curriculum, boosting instructional capacity in foreign languages and cultures, and adding a small number of targeted academic exchanges with premier universities.

Since our last NEASC evaluation, there have been a number of major developments related to global education at MIT. Ensuring that students gain the skills and knowledge they need to work and contribute internationally is now a widely articulated priority. The Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons stated that every MIT graduate should understand the global context in which their futures will unfold and "be comfortable working and living in settings in which they must adapt to differing values, traditions, assumptions, attitudes and norms that will arise from cross-cultural contact within a new global economy." 23  The Institute has worked to raise MIT's profile in global education in ways that reflect its unique character and boost its capacity to train global leaders, and it has taken steps to provide a competitive and compelling set of international opportunities for students.

The number and variety of international exchanges has increased steadily over the last decade. Several academic departments—aeronautics/astronautics, architecture, and materials science and engineering—have launched small departmental exchanges involving one to three students, most of whom are undergraduates. Partner institutions include Imperial College London, Delft University of Technology, the University of Hong Kong, and Oxford University, and we are adding the University of Pretoria. Besides providing study-abroad opportunities for MIT students, these exchanges bring excellent undergraduates from partner institutions to MIT, to study side by side with our students for a semester each year. Two study-abroad programs in Madrid were also recently started: a semester-long program in which four to nine students participate, and a January program for 20 or more students. The longer program gives students the opportunity to study in Spanish during spring semester. Depending upon their major and interests, students may choose courses at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid or the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The January program includes a Spanish course taught in Madrid by an MIT lecturer, along with cultural trips to Spanish cities and visits to companies. To support student participation in international activities, the Global MIT website ( was launched in 2007. The site provides access to an extensive database of research projects, internships, initiatives, courses, and service opportunities with significant global content.

In 2006, the dean for undergraduate education appointed a faculty-led committee, Global Educational Opportunities at MIT (GEOMIT), to look into ways to enhance undergraduates' opportunities for international experience. GEOMIT recommended expanding the successful models listed above, offering more summer and Independent Activities Period opportunities that are less likely to conflict with course requirements, and removing financial, attitudinal, and academic barriers that may inhibit participation. In addition, GEOMIT proposed integrating global education into the major curricula where possible, and using a holistic approach in which experience is part of a process that helps students build a toolkit for global competency. Arguably the most significant action related to the GEOMIT recommendations has been to establish the Global Education Office, which coordinates and facilitates global-education programs, student participation, and safe student travel. To support these efforts, the Global Education and Career Development Center was formed in 2008 to bring MIT's study-abroad programs, distinguished fellowships, and global-education activities together with career-development services. This combination has resulted in one-stop shopping for students and allows them to better evaluate global experiences in the context of future career opportunities.

Another Institute committee formed in 2008, the MIT Global Council, has spent a year analyzing global education and research at MIT. The Council is considering the creation of an undergraduate Global Scholars Program and other opportunities that build on existing efforts in international education and research. In its deliberations, the Council concluded that traditional semesters abroad were, with rare exceptions, problematic in the MIT context. They instead expressed preference for research- and classroom-based preparation for internships and practicums abroad. They also concluded that student activities abroad should be driven and led by faculty in coordination with relevant deans and department heads. The Council will release a report with these and other specific recommendations in fall 2009. Faculty and staff will continue to explore promising programs for adoption or expansion, and ways to address and remove obstacles that may impede efforts to encourage global education at MIT.

One goal for the future will be to identify a set of learning outcomes that cut across MIT's various global programs. Currently, the Global Education and Career Development Center administers an annual survey about students' educational experiences abroad and their plans for careers or further education. Similarly, MISTI measures the impact of its overseas internships by surveying participants before and after and gathering summary reports from the students and the host institutions. However, there has been little analysis comparing the relative impact of various programs to help inform future plans. As MIT works to develop an integrated global-education strategy, such analysis will be needed. A team of representatives from across MIT's programs and offices has started working together on learning outcomes related to global experiences. Their discussions have confirmed that studying or working abroad can have many intangible yet extremely valuable rewards, such as improving students' ability to work successfully on international teams, communicate effectively with colleagues of different cultural backgrounds, and understand cultural differences. Many of these benefits are difficult to measure, however, and one challenge will be to develop appropriate assessment tools.

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We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively.
    — MIT mission statement

As President Hockfield stated in her inaugural address, "MIT is uniquely equipped, and obliged, ... to educate the leaders the world needs now." 24  Rather than classify people as "leaders" or "nonleaders" and try to develop individuals into leaders, MIT assumes that everyone can learn and grow in ways that make them more effective in the various contexts, group roles, and processes they take on throughout their lives. Each experience that students engage in during their time at MIT is an opportunity to test skills, strengthen effectiveness, and enhance awareness about the world. Yet, although three-quarters of our alumni tell us that leadership abilities are important or very important to their lives and work, only a small fraction believe they learned these skills at the Institute. Despite the numerous and significant opportunities for leadership development on campus, 9 out of 10 recent graduates say they want MIT to do more. 25 

Over the past decade, the Institute has made great strides in incorporating leadership education into both academic and cocurricular settings:

Our goal is to equip graduating students not just with the technical and scientific tools necessary to solve the world's most pressing issues, but also with the relational and collaborative abilities necessary to effectively lead change for the common good.

MIT's Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP), our largest credit-bearing internship program, provides a powerful example of our efforts to achieve this goal. UPOP is a full-year cocurricular program that helps talented sophomores gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to effectively apply classroom learning to successful careers in engineering leadership, by beginning the process well before graduation. With guidance from MIT faculty, UPOP staff, and industry professionals, students obtain meaningful summer internships in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector. They receive instruction and individual coaching before, during, and after their practicum to help locate and negotiate the terms of summer work and then thrive in the internship. The program served over 300 students in 2008–09 (38 percent of School of Engineering sophomores and 28 percent of the sophomore class as whole). Since the program's inception in 2001, more than 1,250 students have benefited from the combination of top-flight instruction and high-touch support. In surveys, year after year, students indicate that the program makes them better prepared for a summer engineering internships and more appreciative of the multifaceted nature of engineering work. In addition to this positive feedback from the students, 100 percent of the mentor-instructors in 2009 said they enjoyed the experience with UPOP.

The Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program ( represents one of MIT's most recent initiatives in student-leadership development. The program provides leadership-development activities for undergraduate engineers with the broader aim of improving engineering leadership education across the country. Complementing the outstanding academic education students get at MIT, and borrowing some elements of leadership training programs for undergraduates in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the Gordon-MIT ELP provides an array of resources to strengthen leadership capabilities among three groups of engineering students. The program seeks to (1) give all MIT engineering students hands-on visceral experience in project-based learning and results-oriented leadership as part of their normal academic experience; (2) offer advanced courses and multidisciplinary projects to participants in the Gordon Engineers program; and (3) provide focused training to a smaller group—Gordon Engineering Leaders—to prepare them to steer engineering invention, innovation, and implementation efforts. Each group of students has the opportunity to develop leadership skills through project-based learning, extensive interaction with industry leaders and mentors, hands-on product development, and weekly Engineering Leadership Labs.

Over 20 organizations at MIT are involved in leadership-development activities of one form or another. To catalog the myriad options in and outside the classroom, MIT launched the Virtual Leadership Center website ( in 2007. This tool provides one-stop shopping for information about the wide inventory of opportunities and experiences across MIT.

Despite the many programs available, students are increasingly asking for and expecting more systematic and systemic leadership opportunities. MIT must now work with the individual pieces to create a comprehensive, unified framework. To this end, the Division of Student Life will be realigning its organization to include a new position, associate dean for student leadership and activities. In addition, the Institute is in the early stages of planning a new Leadership Development Network to build on the significant body of work to date, link and leverage the strengths of each effort, and amplify the availability and variety of student leadership-development options. Our goal is to help students understand all they have to offer, learn leadership skills and models, and gain the experiences and feedback necessary to succeed in the future.

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Commitment to service

We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work... for the betterment of humankind.
    — MIT mission statement

From creating new delivery devices for vaccines to developing environmentally sustainable wind-driven pumps for accessing underground water, MIT students find many opportunities to serve the world through their class work and cocurricular learning experiences. Today MIT offers more than 55 outreach programs on campus, in the local community, and in national and international locations, as well as 19 student service groups, eight of which focus on international issues.

The MIT Public Service Center (PSC) spearheads a significant amount of public-service involving 2,500 to 3,000 MIT students, primarily undergraduates, a year. Founded in 1988, the PSC aims to motivate, facilitate, and celebrate the ethics and activities of public service at MIT. Through the Service Learning Initiative, the Community Service Work-Study Program, fellowships, internships, grants, and collaborative initiatives such as International House, the Public Service Center strives to offer MIT students an expanded, experiential education that augments and applies their academic education. A quintessential example is the IDEAS Competition, an innovation and entrepreneurship contest to address the needs of underserved communities around the world. In 2007–08, approximately 300 students participated in IDEAS, with 45 teams submitting initial proposals and 24 teams submitting final entries. Last year's winning inventions included a unique Braille-writing device that enables users to take notes and write for extended periods; a mobility aid that can morph between a standard wheelchair and a long-distance, lever-powered traveler; and a virtual gaming technology that can function as a rehabilitation aid for stroke patients in areas with few health-care professionals. In 2009 the IDEAS Competition partnered with the MicroLoan Foundation to support projects that address the financial needs of small-scale entrepreneurs. The 2008-09 Muhammad Yunus Challenge to Alleviate Poverty, an MIT contest, focused on new technologies to supply the energy-storage needs of the poor.

Service Learning classes integrate academically relevant service projects into the curriculum. This gives students the opportunity to help underserved communities while earning academic credit, applying their education, and working toward their MIT degree. The Service Learning program was founded at MIT in 2001. Since that time, roughly 1,700 MIT students have participated in Service Learning classes in 10 departments. Further information on successful Service Learning experiences may be found at and at The program is poised to grow, given the general interest in project-based learning as well as increasing student interest in service and in the real-world application of academic concepts. To support this growth, the Service Learning program administrator will collaborate with faculty to develop appropriate infrastructure, create a cohort of practitioners, research funding opportunities, provide assessment support, and publicize successes.

Another campus institution with a public-service mission is the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). This program, established five years ago within the Department of Economics, epitomizes MIT's commitment to applying scientific knowledge to solve global problems and serve humankind. The lab promotes the use of randomized trials, similar to methods used to test experimental drugs and vaccines, to evaluate antipoverty interventions in education, health, women's empowerment, and rural development. Working closely with partners all over the world, J-PAL helps translate research into action, providing evidence to governments, nongovernmental organizations, private companies, and international agencies about the most successful and cost-effective approaches to reducing poverty. A major gift announced in 2009 will allow J-PAL to expand its work over the next five years and well into the future, with the goal of improving the lives of 100 million people worldwide by 2013.

The MIT Educational Studies Program (ESP) is one of our oldest and largest student organizations committed to service. Founded in 1957, its mission is to create opportunities for students to share their knowledge and creativity with the community in both traditional and non-traditional classroom settings. ESP classes are developed and taught by MIT students, alumni, and faculty, and members of the community and vary from completely fun and non-academic (Duct Tape Design, Bottle Rockets) to the most advanced and challenging (Build Your Own Operating System, Quantum Mechanics). Each year, ESP's educational outreach programs assist thousands of middle and high school students. Splash, its flagship event, has drawn a total of two thousand students to the MIT campus for a weekend of celebrating the joy of learning. From the months of preparation through the final program wrap-up, fully ten percent of the MIT undergraduate population is involved in making Splash possible. Throughout the year, ESP supports its teachers - MIT students - as they conceive, develop, and execute innovative, original courses. The program also contributed to the development of Highlights for High School – a guide to MIT OpenCourseWare subjects selected specifically to help high school students prepare for AP exams, learn more about the skills and concepts learned in high school, and get a glimpse of what they'll soon study in college. The success of ESP's model has led to grass-roots efforts to emulate it at other universities, including Stanford, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the Technion.

To determine how effective MIT's service efforts are, the Institute uses a number of tools and metrics. For example, every PSC program gathers data from key constituents each time the program is run. Methods include pre- and post-surveys, interviews, focus groups, weekly or bimonthly e-mail check-ins, and essays. Each assessment is designed to investigate metrics developed for the particular program outcome. For example, service-learning-class surveys ask students and faculty to assess whether learning objectives are met, competencies developed, attitudes changed, and so forth, while fellowship-program surveys for students and community supervisors focus on matters such as development of self-confidence and leadership skills, community impact, and ways to improve the program's support systems.

The PSC also conducts research in association with other MIT units, such as the Teaching and Learning Laboratory. Some of this work enables MIT to contribute to the literature on service learning. For example, in subject 2.009 (Product Engineering Design), our survey data have demonstrated that the service-learning component in the senior product-design curriculum has a significant positive effect on students' attitudes about careers in mechanical engineering—information that was disseminated in a publication and conference presentations. To continue to strengthen our service programs, the PSC enlisted the help of an MIT human-resources professional and an expert on young-adult development to do a comprehensive literature review about the effects of public service on young-adult development; the report is available in the accreditation team room.

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The arts at MIT connect creative minds across disciplines and encourage a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. They are rooted in experimentation, risk taking, and imaginative problem solving and strengthen MIT's commitment to the aesthetic, human, and social dimensions of research and innovation. The knowledge and creations generated by the arts, exemplary of our motto—mens et manus, mind and hand—are an essential part of MIT's effort to build a better society and meet the challenges of the 21st century.
    — Arts@MIT mission statement

A majority of MIT's entering freshmen (75 percent of the class of 2012) have had formal training or achieved documented excellence in the arts in high school, including, music, theater, and visual arts. They are students in whom technical aptitude and artistic proficiency coexist and inform a new outlook on creativity and innovation. Over half of the undergraduate population enrolls in an arts class before graduation.

Reforms to the HASS curriculum introduced a separate category for arts in 1985, strengthening their prominence in the distribution requirements and initiating the joint administration of arts subjects in the GIRs across the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences ("Arts" was added to the name of the school in 2000). Following the May 2009 vote of changes in the GIRs discussed earlier in this chapter, three categories will replace the previous five distribution requirements, including one devoted entirely to the arts (music, theater arts, writing, history of art and architecture, and visual studies). Thus every undergraduate will take a subject in the arts; the arts will be "mainstreamed" in the core curriculum for the first time, and all undergraduates will have exposure to world-renowned faculty in architecture, visual arts, media arts, music, theater, dance, and writing. There are thriving graduate programs in architecture, history of art and architecture, media arts and sciences, and visual arts as well.

Gamelan Galek Tika

Adam Boyles conducts MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO)
Photo: Omari Stephens

The practice of art is particularly well suited to MIT's educational and research culture, which advocates learning by doing, encourages students to become cocreators in research and innovation, and has a history of breakthrough accomplishments at the intersection of art and technology. A drive to push the possibilities of representational devices and materials that expand the boundaries of the senses began well before the opening in 1985 of the now internationally renowned Media Lab. Today the search for better expressive and technical tools for storytelling, photography, film, video, computer graphics, and musical composition takes place not only in the Media Lab and in classes primarily concerned with the creative arts, but all over the Institute—from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and from the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies to the Edgerton Center.

MIT culture has never been animated solely in the classroom or the research lab, and the two premier exhibition spaces on campus, the List Visual Arts Center and the MIT Museum, 26  continue a longstanding tradition of engaging the active learner in object-centered or experiential education. The List Visual Arts Center oversees MIT's public art collection (one of the top 10 university collections in the country), the permanent and student-loan art collections, and ambitious exhibitions of cutting-edge contemporary art that receive national and international attention (see the recent Boston Globe article). The MIT Museum's goal is to make the research and innovation created at the Institute accessible to all. The Museum's architectural, nautical, and hologram holdings rank among the most important in the country. Public engagement through creative educational programming and support of the academic priorities of the Institute are a top priority at both institutions; the Museum's Cambridge Science Festival (the first science festival in North America) and PERMIT (Public Engagement with Research at MIT) are prime examples, as is the List's Max Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art, established to address annually an important and controversial issue in contemporary art.

Student Loan Art Exhibition lotttery
Student Loan Art Exhibition lotttery, List Visual Art Center
Photo: Mark Linga

Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery
Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery, MIT Museum
Photo: Chris Brown

The 70 or so arts organizations (including 8 performance groups that are curricular and professionally directed) embody MIT's recognition that learning the arts, understanding their significance, and perfecting technique take place outside the classroom as well as within. Along with classical European music and Shakespeare, members of the MIT community can enjoy world music and performances by a Balinese gamelan, a Senegalese drumming ensemble, and MITHAS, which features classical dance, theater, and music from South Asia. Electronic music by "hyperinstruments," theatrical pieces using intelligent robots, and dances choreographed with sophisticated sensors and elaborate feedback systems are among the 100-plus productions a year. One of the jewels of the Music Section has been the Emerson Program for Private Instruction, which awards scholarships to the most talented students (selected by audition) for private instrument instruction with local master teachers. A vibrant program of artists-in-residence in architecture, visual arts, music, theater, and dance brings even more artistic excellence to campus; these visits often extend from or foster collaborations with MIT faculty, a reciprocal component of MIT's outreach to the wider world.

Gamelan Galek Tika

Gamelan Galak Tika
Photo: Bill Southworth

Notwithstanding the many outstanding projects and programs in the arts and the high visibility of the creative arts faculty, the Institute still confronts challenges. Programs in the arts at MIT have developed their strengths through creative adaptation to our distinctive culture as a center of innovation in science and engineering and through entrepreneurial endeavors in decentralized contexts. It may now be time for a cultural shift toward greater coordination and aggregation of the artistic communities at MIT, to enable them to flourish in the present cultural moment, which is characterized by unprecedented growth in technologies for producing art, creating music, making moving pictures, and developing other art forms as yet unimagined. Under the direction of the Provost's Office, the Creative Arts Council (an advisory committee of faculty and staff in the arts) is reviewing a draft white paper on the history and future of the arts at MIT. Among the goals are (1) to extend MIT's legacy of inventing the artistic and performative languages of the future, along with the technical innovations that enable them; (2) to create exhibition, performance, and research facilities appropriate for the media-rich art forms of the future; (3) to seize the opportunity of the core-curriculum requirement for the arts; and (4) to design strategies that raise awareness on campus and beyond that MIT is a center of excellence in the arts and nurtures creativity and innovation across many disciplines, most prominently at the intersection of art, science, engineering, and technology.

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Across the nation, the emphasis on accountability and measurable effectiveness in undergraduate education has never been greater. Changes in NEASC standards since the last visit point to an increase in accountability, with new and more specific language on what assessment is appropriate for, and expected of, institutions accredited by NEASC. However, the subject of assessment in higher education is fraught with discord. Segments of the higher-education community contend that national standardized testing is the only way to consistently measure the value added by an undergraduate degree, while others insist that standardized testing cannot measure all the benefits of a college education. The discussion is particularly enlightening for institutions like MIT, where students enter college with outstanding academic credentials.

A succinct statement of the broader aims of assessment, particularly for selective institutions, may be found in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education document, "Assessment: A Fundamental Responsibility." 27  Approximately 100 schools have endorsed this statement, and MIT is in close agreement with the principles it articulates. With that as a starting point, MIT uses a variety of direct and indirect assessment tools, described in the following sections.

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The Teaching and Learning Laboratory

The MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL) provides a comprehensive range of programs and services to improve the quality of instruction at the Institute. TLL collaborates with faculty, instructional staff, and teaching assistants in a variety of settings to enhance classroom instruction and strengthen learning.

Since 2000, TLL has been closely involved in a number of faculty-led initiatives to develop and implement innovative curricula, pedagogy, and educational technology. TLL's associate directors for teaching and learning contribute expertise in research on student learning, assist faculty in formulating learning objectives, and aid them in selecting classroom practices that will foster that learning. TLL associate directors for assessment and evaluation craft research studies that generate data about the effectiveness of those innovations. These assessment studies use mixed-method designs that adhere to standards for educational research. Over 50 such projects in educational innovation have been implemented in this way (see chart 4C).

In each case, faculty, working with TLL staff, have generated learning objectives, and TLL educational researchers have studied the extent to which those objectives have been met. More routinely, then, faculty are beginning to depend on knowledge gained through assessment to make curricular decisions, inform pedagogical change, and determine how well students are learning. For example, an instructor in Mechanics and Materials I, created a "framework" to present, in graphical form, the major concepts in the subject and how they relate to one another. In assessments, students indicated the framework provided a context that greatly facilitated learning and understanding. In direct response to this assessment, faculty in six additional Mechanical Engineering subjects have developed, or are developing, similar frameworks for their subjects.

Chart 4C: TLL Projects, 2000–09

Course Number




Civil and Environmental Engineering



Mechanical Engineering



Materials Science and Engineering






Electrical Engineering and Computer Science






Chemical Engineering



Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences



Aeronautics and Astronautics






Biological Engineering


21 (all programs)

Anthropology, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, Literature, Music and Theater Arts,
Writing and Humanistic Studies, Humanities






Health Sciences and Technology



Resident-Based Advising



Science, Technology, and Society



Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program






Public Service Center





*Some studies occurred over multiple semesters but were counted as one study.

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Indirect measures of learning outcomes

Currently, MIT gathers a variety of data showing that students gain a great deal from an MIT education. These data include results from undergraduate, graduate, and alumni/ae surveys; graduation rates; and the number of students progressing to advanced degrees. MIT has developed a systematic approach to survey research that includes gathering data on academic and student life experiences. Each department is provided with summaries of their students' responses, details on how their results compare to those of other MIT departments, and, whenever possible, results from similar departments at peer institutions. Peer data are available for research purposes through data-sharing agreements with other highly selective peers and research universities. Selected results from these surveys are included in MIT's Undergraduate E Schedule and are provided throughout our accreditation report.

There are four components to MIT's suite of surveys focusing on undergraduates: an incoming-freshman survey administered before students arrive on campus; an enrolled-student survey that includes all undergraduate students; a biannual senior survey administered in the spring of the senior year; and a survey of undergraduate alumni/ae administered every four or five years to a selected group of classes. As noted earlier, each department receives a customized summary of the responses of their students and alumni/ae. Institutional frequency reports are available to the MIT community and the general public at

Alumni/ae surveys provide MIT with insight into student experiences after graduation, including careers, graduate education, service, and personal well-being. As an academic retrospective, the alumni/ae survey asks graduates what was—and was not—valuable in their MIT education. In our 2009 survey of undergraduate alumni, fully 85 percent of respondents indicated that MIT prepared them "more than adequately" or "very well" for their graduate or professional studies, while 77 percent indicated that MIT prepared them "more than adequately or "very well" for their current career. With regard to specific skills and competencies, respondents felt most well prepared to "think analytically and logically," "acquire new skills and knowledge on [their] own," and "use quantitative tools." "Understand social problems," "maintain a healthy lifestyle," and "read/speak a foreign language" were identified as the areas of weakest preparation.

These measures of learning outcomes play an important role in helping MIT respond to the needs of its students. For example, in 1997 when survey data indicated that our graduates did not feel adequately supported in developing their communications skills as undergraduates. The faculty initiated a multiyear process of collaboration and curricular pilots to launch the new Communication Requirement.

MIT is a member of several consortia that share response-level data from a number of surveys, including a senior survey and an alumni/ae survey. The exchange of these data allows similar institutions to understand how their student experiences compare. These data have helped MIT identify curriculum areas needing improvement. MIT works closely with colleagues at peer institutions to improve and update survey questions. For example, work is under way to refine the categories in several of these surveys to better capture student attributes such as self-directed learning and problem solving. Samples of these surveys and summary reports on the survey responses may be found in the accreditation team room.

For the past several years, MIT has administered a freshman, or first-year, survey. This survey was launched to provide benchmark data for student expectations and first-year accomplishments before any curricular changes were made. MIT anticipates continuing this survey to see how changes in the curriculum impact the student experience in the first year. Part of the motivation for the freshman survey was to test the effectiveness of a series of experimental project-based (PB) subjects in the first year. Separate pull-down sections of the survey asked students how their skills in specific areas changed as a result of taking the PB class. Their answers were then compared to those of their peers who did not take the subject. Data from that survey now inform the curricular design of new hands-on, first-year subjects. We anticipate that any additions to the curriculum can be tested using the same methodologies. Included in these surveys are what Educational Testing Services (ETS) calls "soft skills": teamwork, communication, and problem solving, as well as some questions on self-directed learning, which ETS defines as "engagement."

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Direct measures of learning outcomes

Much of the national debate on direct measures of learning outcomes has focused on the use of standardized tests such as the CLA, the MAAP, the CAAP, and the GRE. Various offices at MIT have discussed these instruments and evaluated several of them. The consensus is that none of these instruments adequately measures the content of a basic MIT education.

Fifty-nine percent of MIT undergraduates are enrolled in the School of Engineering, which is accredited by ABET, Inc. ABET already requires the School of Engineering to identify learning objectives for every subject and for department-level curricula, and to provide evidence that those learning objectives are being met. Outside of Engineering, all new or experimental subjects funded by MIT's curriculum-development funds (such as the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Undergraduate Education) are also required to submit learning objectives and a plan for measuring them.

There are many ways the Institute measures student learning in the disciplines. As might be expected, some faculty believe that grades are the best indicator of student performance, and evidence shows that the MIT faculty take their grading responsibilities very seriously. Section 2.60 of the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty describes the levels of subject competency that letter grades are expected to represent. MIT periodically reviews the distribution of undergraduate grades to monitor possible grade inflation. The most recent analysis found that the average GPA at MIT has remained the same since 1984.

Beyond grades, there are additional direct measurements. Out of 26 academic departments offering undergraduate major programs, 13 require graduating seniors to complete a thesis, capstone project, internship, or design experience, while two other departments have optional thesis requirements. All of the engineering departments require some type of capstone experience. A large percentage of students participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and many of these students produce publishable articles for peer-reviewed journals. Most departments keep track of the achievements of their students, including publications, presentations at conferences, and external honors and awards. Many of these department-specific activities are summarized in MIT's Undergraduate E Schedule. Copies of selected senior theses and published papers can be found in the accreditation team room.

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The role of visiting committees

As outlined in Chapter 2, the MIT Corporation's visiting committees play an important role in the life of academic departments. Undergraduate and graduate education are discussed extensively throughout the visits, and students are invited to meet with committee members. The process typically provides valuable feedback that ultimately strengthens departmental programs. The background materials given to the committee chair include comparative data on selected questions from a number of student surveys. Individual departments often provide more in-depth analysis of these data during committee visits. Because each department has a biannual meeting with its visiting committee, the committee provides good follow-up on prior recommendations. Although issues of space allocation, faculty renewal, and graduate fellowship support are commonly discussed, the highly targeted nature of each visiting committee makes it challenging to draw comparisons or make broad generalizations based on the reports. For specific examples of visiting-committee outcomes, see the attached E Schedule.

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Student evaluations of teaching and learning

At the end of each semester, MIT undertakes an evaluation of teaching performance and subjects by asking students to complete surveys. Examples of these evaluations may be found in the accreditation team room. A number of academic units also administer their own evaluations, which ask more specific questions about their course offerings and instructors. These evaluations are used to target teaching problems and to inform faculty tenure and promotion decisions.

The central subject-evaluation process is administered through the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education. More than 700 subjects are evaluated each term. MIT is switching from a paper-based process to an online system that will provide consistency of data across departmental units. Customized reports have been developed for departments and individual instructors so that they can see summaries of responses as well as individual, but anonymous, student responses. These reports include not only quantitative data, but also student comments. The migration from paper to electronic reporting is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2010. Thereafter, MIT will be able to conduct more in-depth analysis of survey results. The development of an online subject-evaluation system includes the enhancement of our teaching-activity database. This revamped database will make it easier to perform large-scale analysis of faculty load or class size. The subject-evaluation system is intended to be used for traditionally organized subjects. More information on the project is available at

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Evaluating long-term success

As we at MIT continue to collect and analyze all the data noted above, we continue to believe that an undergraduate education is vital to preparing students for the future. Rather than simply learning content, MIT students develop useful habits of mind—critical-thinking skills, the ability to evaluate alternative courses of action, resourcefulness, and creativity. These skills are emphasized in much of our curricular innovation since they help students continue to learn throughout their lives. MIT understands that its educational impact on students is measured in decades, not weeks or months. Measuring short-term achievements, such as mastery of a particular skill or subject, may be easier than measuring lifelong attributes, such as intellectual curiosity. However, alumni/ae surveys and graduates' track records provide evidence of our success in instilling those attributes. Long after they leave MIT, alumni/ae continue to demonstrate—in their graduate careers, professional careers, volunteer activities, and personal lives—"the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind."

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Readers of this report may occasionally be unsure whether we are referring to programs and services for undergraduates or for all students. There is an explanation for that. As described in Chapter 3, MIT has a single Institute-wide faculty and no independent graduate schools. Therefore, the faculty governance structure, the visiting-committee system, and the myriad other planning and evaluation systems guide both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Even parts of the university nominally dedicated to undergraduate students, such as the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, often provide services to graduate students.

In March 2008, the chancellor announced an important change in title for a senior officer: the dean for graduate students became the dean for graduate education, and the Graduate Students Office was renamed the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, or the ODGE. The new titles parallel those for the dean for undergraduate education and the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, and they are consonant with titles in sister institutions.

ODGE is an Institute-wide support and referral office specifically for graduate students and graduate administrators. The office complements the individual departments' administration and advocates broadly for graduate education. The ODGE encompasses the work of the dean's office staff, the International Students Office, and the Graduate Student Council. Together, they foster academic excellence and quality of life for MIT's community of graduate students. In spring 2009, the ODGE released a strategic plan ( for improving graduate-student diversity, enhancing the graduate community, and strengthening financial support. These topics are addressed in Chapter 6, "Students."

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Degree programs

For more than a century, MIT graduate programs have involved faculty and students working together to extend the boundaries of knowledge. The Institute has traditionally been a national leader in graduate education, with prominent master's and doctoral programs. MIT's top-ranked programs in engineering; chemistry; mathematics; the physical and life sciences; economics; political science; linguistics; science, technology, and society; architecture; media studies; urban studies; and management represent a broad spectrum of excellence in graduate education.

Graduate students may pursue work leading to any of the following degrees: doctor of philosophy (PhD); doctor of science (ScD); engineer's degree; master of science (SM); master of engineering (MEng); master of architecture (MArch); master of business administration (MBA); master in city planning (MCP); and the new master of finance (MFin.). Graduate programs are described in individual department statements that can be found at

Each graduate student is officially enrolled in a degree program. The programs are not limited, however, to subjects offered in a single department. Subjects and research programs may be chosen from several departments with the approval of the student's faculty advisor to ensure that the overall program is integrated and well balanced with respect to a major field of study. Many of MIT's interdisciplinary labs and centers are described in Chapter 2. Despite the wealth of interest and participation in interdepartmental fields, procedures for admission, registration, and awarding of graduate degrees are departmentally oriented. In short, every graduate student, including those who are working on interdepartmental programs under the guidance of standing or specially created interdepartmental committees, must have a "home" in some department.

Academic departments exercise a large measure of autonomy over their graduate programs, under general guidelines established for the Institute as a whole. Each department has a departmental committee on graduate students, including one or more graduate registration officers, to administer department and Institute procedures.

There is rigorous program review and assessment of student learning through the visiting-committee process, described in Chapter 2. This process is supported by the ongoing collection of graduate-student surveys—an effort that has been evolving over the past decade. Today MIT surveys each incoming student cohort (master's and doctoral candidates). The data collected from students provide benchmarks for subsequent measures. All doctoral students are surveyed when they graduate, using a compilation of instruments including the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a career-services survey, and a student-satisfaction survey based on a core set of questions developed by AAU (Association of American Universities) schools. Master's students are surveyed as they leave, as part of the Career Office's exit survey. There are multiple goals embedded in the exit survey: understanding graduates' immediate career plans, understanding facts related to their educational experience at MIT (how they were supported, levels of debt, etc.), and ascertaining satisfaction with various aspects of their education and social experience. The results of those surveys are summarized by school and by department and compared with survey results for the rest of MIT. A subset of the graduate-student-satisfaction data is routinely provided to visiting-committee chairs as part of a report on departmental strategic indicators. In particular, issues of advising, program quality, and department environment are studied.

Although MIT awards a number of degrees that do not require a thesis (MBA, MEng, MArch, and MCP), a thesis is required for many of the SM degrees and for the PhD. The thesis and the procedures leading up to it involve a number of steps whereby graduate students are assessed directly on their mastery of the material as well as their ability to do original research. MIT students are expected to publish in peer-reviewed journals and present the results of their research at national and international conferences. Metrics for publication differ by department and are included in the E Series and S Series.

One important measure of the success of graduate education, especially at the doctoral level, is the careers of MIT graduates. As part of the data collection necessitated by the recent National Research Council assessment of research doctoral programs, MIT has become more deliberate in collecting data on graduate alumni. Included in our Graduate S Schedule are data on the placement of the last seven cohorts of doctoral recipients. A substantial number of MIT doctoral recipients continue their academic careers, and others pursue research careers either at nonprofit research institutions or in industry.

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Graduate training

MIT's "one school" culture creates an environment where the boundary between undergraduate and graduate work is porous. More often than not, undergraduate students work under the supervision of graduate-student teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs). In 2008–09, approximately 650 graduate students held teaching appointments in various schools, with the greatest numbers in the Schools of Engineering and Science. Even more graduate students served RAs, as discussed in the next section.

In 2006, following the recommendations of a report titled Policies for Strengthening the Professional Development of Teaching Assistants at MIT, 28  the Institute created a minimal standard of training for teaching assistants, which was to be implemented by individual schools or departments. This effort is monitored and supported by MIT's Teaching and Learning Laboratory. As a result of the policy change, the number of TAs who attended TLL orientations more than quadrupled, rising from 100 students in 2006–07 (before the policy went into effect) to 430 students in 2008–09. In addition, TLL has begun two other initiatives to improve the teaching abilities of graduate students. The first is the MIT Graduate Student Teaching Certificate program ( Students are required to attend seven workshops, submit pre- and post-workshop assignments, and participate in a microteaching session. Twenty-seven students completed the program in 2008-09, and another 50 have completed more than half of the requirements. When participants were asked to evaluate the training, 80 percent rated the workshops and microteaching as either "useful" or "very useful." The second TLL initiative is Facilitating Effective Research (FER), a series of workshops to help graduate students develop skills in mentoring undergraduate researchers. To date, over 100 graduate students have attended FER workshops. Last year, 90 percent of the attendees rated the sessions either a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.

TLL staff members also teach Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering (5.95J), a for-credit subject that focuses on the knowledge and skills necessary for teaching science and engineering in higher education. Thirty-eight graduate students were enrolled in the spring 2009 semester, and five attended as listeners. The Scheller Teacher Education Program ( offers courses for students who wish to teach in grades K–12.

Although the amount of training that TAs receive depends on the departments in which they teach, the increasing emphasis on TA mentoring and advising has led to better educational experiences for undergraduates and, for graduate students, strong preparation for becoming the next generation of the professoriate.

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Size of the graduate program

Since the early 1980s, the graduate-student population at MIT has outnumbered the undergraduate population (see Chart 4D). Some of this growth was planned, such as in the Sloan School of Management, which has a deliberate timetable for expanding the size of its MBA class along with its faculty and facilities. However, most of the growth resulted from increases in research funding.

Chart 4D: Growth in Student Population over Time

Chart 4D

Research at MIT is driven by faculty interests and is closely linked with graduate education. As Chart 4E reveals, there is a .91 correlation coefficient between campus research expenditures and the total population of graduate students and postdocs. The research enterprise at MIT includes about 1,000 professional research staff, about 2,500 graduate research assistants, and about 1,000 postdoctoral associates and fellows. Our peers have far fewer research assistants (for example, in 2006, Stanford reported 1,658 compared to MIT's 2,500). MIT subsidizes graduate students research by paying 50 percent of the tuition for all graduate research assistants, rather than charging their full tuition to grants. This has the effect of significantly lowering the cost of research assistants and encourages faculty to support a greater number of graduate students.

The Institute is exploring whether the high number of graduate students we have had over the past five years is in our long-term interest. In particular, enrollment in doctoral engineering programs has grown considerably in the past decade. The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education is engaging departments in discussions about whether a smaller enrollment of better-supported students might be preferable to the status quo, under which large numbers of students are often supported year to year, largely as RAs on research grants. We believe a shift to a somewhat smaller, but better-supported, graduate student body would make MIT even more competitive for the best graduate students. Largely as a result of these discussions, we expect to enroll 1,867 graduate students in 2009–10, a strategic 4.5 percent drop from last year.

Chart 4E

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Graduate life and learning

There have been important changes affecting graduate life and learning over the past 10 years. These changes signal a new focus on MIT's educational triad of academics, research, and community, and reflect three key themes:

The Institute established the CGP in academic year 2006–07 to facilitate more deliberate consideration of issues related to graduate education and student life. The committee is charged with several responsibilities: evaluating proposals for new graduate-degree programs and making relevant recommendations to the faculty; considering proposals that would change or modify general policies related to graduate programs and graduate students; encouraging best practices for graduate educational programs; and serving as the standing faculty advisory body to the dean for graduate education and vice president for research, with respect to policies related to graduate students.

The CGP membership consists of six elected faculty members, the associate chair of the faculty, two graduate students, and the dean for graduate education and vice president for research.

The committee's work over the past two years has included:

Looking ahead, the CGP will continue to explore the possible delinking of graduate tuition from undergraduate tuition; continue to promote the IELTS as an alternative to or replacement for TOEFL; and examine the current use of credit conversion for taking graduate-level classes at Harvard, with the possibility of developing and deploying guidelines for its use. The CGP also expects that many recommendations from the Institute-wide Planning Task Force may influence and inform its work in the coming years. For more information about the committee, see

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Collaborations and distinctive programs

MIT has launched a small number of distinctive programs in graduate and professional education. One is the System Design and Management (SDM) program, the only degree-granting program at the Institute that can be completed primarily from a remote location. A joint offering of the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, residing within MIT's Engineering Systems Division, the program leads to a master of science degree in engineering and management. The mission of SDM is to educate future technical leaders in architecture, engineering, and the design of complex products and systems, preparing them for careers as the technically grounded senior managers of their enterprises. SDM intends to set the standard for delivering career-compatible professional education using advanced information and communication technologies. The distance option relies on the multipoint synchronous videoconferencing of live classes at MIT; the distance students are virtually present in the classroom through a two-way voice and video link. All students take the same classes, so there are SDM students in the same live classes on campus with the distance students who are virtually present. Since January 1997, a total of 625 students have enrolled in SDM, with employers sponsoring 388 (more than 60 percent). A total of 303 students (48 percent of all enrollees) were in the distance-learning option. In the most recent cohort, which entered in January 2009, 18 out of 61 students (about 30 percent) enrolled in the distance-learning option. Since the inception of the program, there have been 457 graduates, 56 percent of them (257) enrolled in the distance option. The student success rate has been very high: only nine students have failed to complete the program, and only one of these, who completed all his course work but not his thesis, was in the distance program. The distance-learning completion rate is 99.5 percent. A full report on SDM and how it complies with NEASC standards can be found in the accreditation team room.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) is another noteworthy program—a collaboration in graduate education between MIT, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The program currently allows students to obtain the following dual (not joint) degrees:

The alliance educates young engineers to serve as leaders in a technologically advanced economy, and it creates a cohort of students and faculty with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. One of the largest interactive distance-education collaboration in the world, SMA takes advantage of state-of-the-art synchronous and asynchronous facilities to achieve seamless instruction across 12 time zones. The voice delay between the classrooms in Cambridge and Singapore is less than a second. The goals and aims of SMA are threefold: (1) to set a new standard for international collaboration in graduate research and education; (2) to invigorate engineering education in Singapore; and (3) to strengthen MIT through the extension of its global impact, the enhancement of its curriculum, and the improvement of its infrastructure. In September 2009, SMA will commence a new doctoral fellowship program. The program will not offer MIT degrees, but students will receive a PhD from either NUS or NTU, with cosupervision from an MIT faculty member. A full report on SMA and how it complies with NEASC standards can be found in the accreditation team room.

Given the success of SMA, the government of Singapore has recently initiated a dialogue with MIT to seek the Institute's help in developing and implementing the curriculum for a new university. The discussions are in very early stages, but they could eventually lead to vibrant research in the area of design, with new dedicated facilities in both Cambridge and Singapore. As conversations continue, MIT will pay special attention to ensuring that any commitment reconciles the time faculty spend away with their teaching and research on MIT's campus. The SDM and SMA programs were submitted to NEASC in our 2004 interim report, and subsequently approved. MIT was commended "for producing two high quality, well thought out, and strategically targeted distance education programs, the System Design & Management (SDM) program jointly sponsored by the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA). There is significant faculty involvement and control, and the institution works closely with its key constituencies and partners to continuously assess and improve these programs." 29 

In addition to these new programs, MIT has several other long-running collaborations in graduate education. The Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) brings the Institute together with Harvard Medical School (HMS), Harvard University, the Boston-area teaching hospitals and an assortment of research centers in a unique collaboration that integrates science, medicine, and engineering to solve problems in human health. Over 400 graduate students of science, medicine, engineering and management take their training side by side at HST. This partnership stretches back to 1970, when MIT and HMS agreed to develop a joint program in medical science. Since then, HST has expanded to include doctoral, master's, and training programs. Today these faculty, graduates, and students share a rare "dual citizenship" in medicine and fields ranging from physics, chemistry, and engineering to computer science and business. Graduates earn an SM from MIT, a PhD from MIT or Harvard, and an MD from HMS.

Since 1968 MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have conducted a cooperative academic program leading to graduate degrees in oceanography and oceanographic engineering. These joint degrees are single documents awarded by both institutions. In 2007, NEASC reaccredited the graduate program in its own right.

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Education is the core activity of MIT, and not surprisingly, we devote a substantial portion of the general Institute budget to supporting it. However, similar to other areas of MIT's operations, many allocation decisions are based on prior history, with changes happening incrementally over time. In today's economic environment, MIT must increasingly approach these decisions from a system-wide perspective informed by data about the cost of providing various types of educational activities. This method will help inform an allocation of resources to best serve students and, simultaneously, fit within the reduced budget in the coming fiscal years. The Educational Working Group of the Institute-wide Planning Task Force undertook a systematic examination of MIT's current educational model; their preliminary recommendations are being finalized as this report nears completion and can be found in Appendix 6. We expect the working group's ideas will require careful study by the faculty and administration to ensure the best interests of both MIT and its students are served.

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15 Committee on the Undergraduate Program, “Report on Alternative Freshman Programs” (April 2005), p. 1. The report is available at
16 Report of the Subcommittee of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program: Review of the Pass/No Record Grading and the Sophomore Exploratory, January 2008. This report can be found in the accreditation team room.
17 Ibid.
18 Students are required to take at least one fundamental subject within each of three energy domains—scientific foundations, technology and engineering, and social science. The additional 24 units can include additional fundamental subjects or approved energy electives from an expansive list.
19 Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons (October 2006), p. 7.
20 ECS envisioned a Subcommittee on the Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Requirement, and a Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement.
21 Sara Rimer, "An Interactive Lecture for Modern Times: TEAL Uses Tech to Improve Education," New York Times, January 14, 2009.
22 MIT, Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons (October 2006), p. 45.
23 MIT, Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons (October 2006), p. 11.
24 Susan Hockfield, inaugural address as16th president of MIT, May 6, 2005 (
25 Student-led survey and report, "Student Opportunities for Undergraduate Leadership (SOUL)," May 2006.
26 There are nine other exhibition spaces at MIT: the Compton Gallery, the Dean's Gallery, Hart Nautical Gallery, the MIT Libraries' Maihaugen Gallery, the MIT Museum Architectural Collection, the Outdoor Sculpture Collection, the Jerome B. Wiesner Student Art Gallery, Rotch Library Exhibitions, and the Elliot K. Wolk Gallery.
27 The statement is available in the accreditation team room and at
28 The report is available at
29 Letter from the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the NEASC, April 28, 2005 (available at