A Global Strategy for MIT

Appendix 3: Interviews with Peer Universities – Key Takeaways

The team interviewed senior staff at nine peer universities, with the following topics guiding the conversations:

  • guiding principles for international activities
  • status of international strategic plan
  • structures for programmatic and operational support
  • activities abroad: type, description, country
  • foreign campus(es)/degrees
  • other noteworthy activities

Most of the universities/schools interviewed are much bigger and more diversified than MIT. Nonetheless, we were able to identify a number of themes cutting across multiple respondents, as well as a handful of noteworthy, one-off observations or experiences from one or just a few peers’ responses.

Common Themes

  • Most of the interviewed schools don’t have formal strategic plans, but many expressed the need for one or the intent to create one.
  • Most had an Office of International Activities (or equivalent), reporting to a Vice Provost or Provost. The reporting relationship/org location was felt to be significant, and importantly rooted in the academic sphere.
  • Operational support structures varied, but all seemed to have grappled with the desirability (clarity, simplicity, end-user focus) of having a single point of contact for international operational issues, balanced against the reality that those issues are mostly resolved at the departmental/unit level.
  • Several schools used financial incentives to achieve international strategic objectives (grant making to support multi-disciplinary faculty collaboration around the world, or a Provost’s Office “research and engagement fund”), while others offered non-financial incentives (information exchange, publicity, or ease of use via operational improvements).
  • Nearly all had created separate legal entities/subsidiaries to facilitate international operations.
  • Almost none do institution building/capacity enhancement á la MIT.

Other Noteworthy Ideas/Approaches

  • Data gathering/utilization (metrics) approaches: annual progress reporting for every international “project” and responsible office listed in the strategic plan, or gathering/providing real-time info on what students and faculty are doing internationally (via “faculty profiles”).
  • Continuous operational improvements process.
  • Distinguishing between work done “in” versus “on” a location/region.
  • Utilization of an active university-level faculty committee that reviews all projects “of complexity” and advises Provost.

Universities/Schools Interviewed

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Emory University
  • ETH Zurich
  • Harvard University
  • Imperial College, London
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale University