A Global Strategy for MIT

II. Bringing the World to MIT

Under the general heading of ‘bringing the world to MIT’, there are two main proposals:

II.A Develop a new MIT Global Leaders program

We should explore the feasibility of a new kind of global leadership development program that would build on MIT’s reputation as the world’s leading scientific and technological university. The theme of the program would be the wise, humane, and effective application of science and technology. General design criteria would include deep immersion in an important technical field, academic rigor and excellence, interdisciplinarity, exposure to the MIT ‘fire hose’, and active involvement in solving problems and translating research ideas to impact.

In one possible version, the program would be designed for an international group of candidates roughly 25 to 35 years of age, with outstanding undergraduate performance and a demonstrated post-graduate track record of problem solving and leadership.

Students in the Global Leaders program would receive a full scholarship for three years. During the first part of this period they would (a) obtain an MIT master’s degree or enter a Ph.D. program in any field of their choosing, or otherwise follow a path enabling deep immersion in a field; and (b) participate with their cohort in leadership development activities. Their focus would shift over time to designing and launching a practical project. Some of the scholars matriculating in master’s programs might choose to enter an MIT Ph.D. program at some point during their three-year scholarship.

The cohort-building part of the program would include visits to countries in several regions of the world (occurring during IAP and the summer months). These visits would familiarize students with important challenges in different parts of the world that involve the application of science and technology; give them insight into how these challenges are understood culturally and politically in different regions; and help them build or strengthen networks useful in their current projects and/or future career development. Each visit would be organized in collaboration with a leading university in that region which would host the Global Leaders scholars and effectively partner with MIT to deliver the program.

The three-year duration of the program would allow scholars to gain deep exposure to the MIT community and develop strong connections to it.

The program would also strengthen MIT’s ability to mobilize around a major interdisciplinary problem area. In any given year (or two- or three-year period), the composition of the incoming class could be focused around a high-priority topic for MIT at that time—e.g., the food/water nexus, climate adaptation, urban mobility, cybersecurity and privacy, etc. Scholars could participate in MIT-wide efforts on that subject. A program co-director with recognized expertise in the identified topic area could be appointed for a limited term to serve alongside the permanent program director. The ability to refocus the class composition from one year to the next would further enhance MIT’s already distinctive capacity to mobilize flexibly around major global challenges.

An Institute-wide faculty committee should be formed to explore the feasibility of such a program in more detail and to recommend whether to proceed.

II.B Review the cap on international undergraduate admissions

MIT’s current policy limits the number of international undergraduate students who live abroad to 6% of annual undergraduate admissions. (Foreign-born students who already live in the U.S. are reviewed with the domestic applicant pool.) This has resulted in an enrollment rate of approximately 10% international students in each incoming class. MIT last reviewed the current policy nine years ago, at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, and another review would be timely. The review should be carried out by the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid.

The issue is complex. One of the arguments for considering a higher cap is to bring more of the world’s most talented students to MIT. Typically, international undergraduate students have above-average GPA and graduation rates. But those living abroad also on average require more financial aid. A change in the cap would require consideration of the impacts on the financial aid budget and how these impacts would affect other priorities for that budget as well as any additional resources MIT might want to direct towards financial aid. An important consideration is to avoid policies that would make it easier for international students of wealth to be admitted at the expense of students of more limited means. Also, if total class size were kept constant, relaxing the cap on international admissions would reduce the number of places for domestic students. Increasing the class size is unlikely to be practical in the near term, given that MIT’s on-campus housing system is currently capacity-constrained. But for the purposes of reviewing current policy regarding undergraduate international admissions, the possibility of a future increase in class size should also be considered.