MIT Institutional Research
Office of the Provost
  Education Highlights


MIT has long maintained that professional competence is best fostered by coupling teaching with research and by focusing education on practical problems. This hands-on approach has made MIT a consistent leader in outside surveys of the nation’s best colleges. MIT was the first university in the country to offer curriculums in architecture (1865), electrical engineering (1882), sanitary engineering (1889), naval architecture and marine engineering (1895), aeronautical engineering (1914), meteorology (1928), nuclear physics (1935), and artificial intelligence (1960s). More than 4,000 MIT graduates are professors at colleges and universities around the world. MIT faculty have written some of the best-selling textbooks of all time, such as Economics by Paul A. Samuelson and Calculus and Analytic Geometry by George Thomas. The following are some notable MIT teaching milestones since 1968.

1968 MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute create a joint program for graduate studies in oceanography. This is the first higher education partnership of its kind.

1969 MIT launches the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), the first of its kind. The program, which enables undergraduates to work directly with faculty on professional research, subsequently is copied in universities throughout the world.

1970 The Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology is established to focus advances in science and technology on human health and to train physicians with a strong base in engineering and science.

1970 Department of Mechanical Engineering initiates the course 2.70 (now 2.007) design contest, created by professor Woodie C. Flowers. The competition was to build a mechanical device, out of a set of relatively simple wooden and metal parts, that would roll down a ramp at a precisely controlled rate.

1971 MIT holds its first Independent Activities Period (IAP), a January program that emphasizes creativity and flexibility in teaching and learning.

1974 The Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program is established to provide a rigorous six-week residential, academic summer program for promising high school juniors who are interested in careers in science and engineering.

1977 Whitaker College of Health Sciences, Technology, and Management is established to strengthen MIT’s ability to engage in health related research and education.

1977 MIT organizes the Program in Science, Technology, and Society to explore and teach courses on the social context and consequences of science and technology—one of the first programs of its kind in the U.S.
1981 MIT-Japan Program is created to send MIT students to Japan for internships. In 1994, the program becomes part of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). Today, the program also fosters research collaboration between faculty at MIT and in Asia through the MISTI Hayashi Seed Fund.

1981 MIT launches Project Athena, a $70 million program to explore the use of computers in education. Digital Equipment Corporation and IBM each contribute $25 million in computer equipment.

1981 The MIT Sloan School of Management launches its Management of Technology program, the world’s first master’s program to focus on the strategic management of technology and innovation.

1983 MIT establishes the Center for Real Estate and the first Master of Science in Real Estate Development (MSRED) degree program in the U.S.

1983–1990 MIT language and computer science faculty join in the Athena Language Learning Project to develop interactive videos that immerse students in the language and character of other cultures. The work pioneers a new generation of language learning tools.

1984 MIT establishes the Media Laboratory, bringing together pioneering educational programs in computer music, film, graphics, holography, lasers, and other media technologies.

1990 MIT initiates an artist-in-residence program to provide students with opportunities to interact with nationally and internationally recognized artists through master classes, lecture-demonstrations, performances and workshops.

1991 The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s course 2.70 (2.007) design contest goes international, with students competing from Japan, England and Germany.

1992 MIT establishes the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program, named in honor of the late Margaret A. MacVicar, to recognize outstanding contributions to teaching. MacVicar, a professor of physics, had conceived of, designed, and launched UROP (see 1969, above).

1992 MIT launches the Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities to extend its pioneering work in computer- and video-assisted language learning to other disciplines. Its first venture was a text and performance multimedia archive for studies of Shakespeare’s plays.

1992 MIT Faculty approves the M.Eng. program in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, an integrated five-year program leading to the simultaneous award of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

1993 In recognition of the increasing importance of molecular and cell biology, MIT becomes the first college in the nation to add biology to its undergraduate requirement.

1994 The MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) are created to connect MIT students to internships and research around the world. MIT’s primary international program, MISTI is a pioneer in applied international studies—a distinctively MIT concept.

1994 The MIT-China Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to China for internships.

1995 The School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management join to create a graduate program in system design and management (SDM), in which students can complete most course requirements at their job sites through interactive distance-learning.

1995 MIT’s Political Science Department establishes the Washington Summer Internship Program to provide undergraduates the opportunity to apply their scientific and technical training to public policy issues.

1997 The MIT-Germany Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to Germany for internships.

1998 MIT teams up with Singapore’s two leading research universities to create a global model for long-distance engineering education and research. This large-scale experiment, the first truly global collaboration in graduate engineering education and research, is a model for today’s distance education.

1998 MIT-India Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to India for internships.

1998 The Division of Bioengineering & Environmental Health (BEH) begins operation with the mission of fostering MIT education and research fusing engineering with biology.

1998 The School of Engineering establishes the Engineering Systems Division (ESD), focused on the development of new approaches, frameworks, and theories to better understand engineering systems behavior and design.

1999 MIT-Italy Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to Italy for internships.

1999 The University of Cambridge and MIT establish the Cambridge-MIT Institute, whose programs include student and faculty exchanges, an integrated research program, professional practice education, and a national competitiveness network in Britain.

1999 MIT establishes the Society of Presidential Fellows to honor the most outstanding students worldwide entering the Institute’s graduate programs. With gifts provided by lead donors, presidential fellows are awarded fellowships that fund first year tuition and living expenses.

2000 MIT Faculty approve the Communication Requirement (CR), which went into effect for the Class of 2005. The CR integrates substantial instruction and practice in writing and speaking into all four years and across all parts of MIT’s undergraduate program. Students participate regularly in activities designed to develop both general and technical communication skills.

2001 Studio Physics is introduced to teach freshman physics. Incorporating a highly collaborative, hands-on environment that uses networked laptops and desktop experiments, the new curriculum lets students work directly with complicated and unfamiliar concepts as their professors introduce them.

2001 MIT launches OpenCourseWare, a program that makes materials for nearly all of its courses freely available on the web and serves as a model for sharing knowledge to benefit all humankind.

2001 The MIT-France Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to France for internships and enhance research collaboration between faculty at MIT and in France through the MIT-France Seed Fund.

2001 MIT establishes WebLab, a microelectronics teaching laboratory that allows students to interact remotely on the Web with transistors and other microelectronics devices anywhere and at any time.

2001 MIT’s Earth System Initiative launches Terrascope, a freshman course in which students work in teams to solve complex earth sciences problems. Bringing together physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, management, and communications, the course has enabled students to devise strategies for preserving tropical rainforests, understand the costs and the benefits of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and plan a mission to Mars.

2002 To give engineering students the opportunity to develop the skills they’ll need to be leaders in the workplace, MIT introduces the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP). The program involves a corporate training workshop, job seminars taught by alumni, and a 10-week summer internship.

2003 MIT Libraries introduce DSpace, a digital repository that gathers, stores, and preserves the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty and research staff, and makes it freely available to research institutions worldwide. Within a year of its launch, DSpace material had been downloaded more than 8,000 times, and more than 100 organizations had adopted the system for their own use.

2003 MIT’s Program in Computational and Systems Biology (CSBi), an Institute-wide program linking biology, engineering, and computer science in a systems biology approach to the study of cell-to-cell signaling, tissue formation, and cancer, begins accepting students for a new Ph.D. program that will give them the tools for treating biological entities as complex living systems.

2004 The MIT-Mexico Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to Mexico for internships.

2005 Combining courses from engineering, mathematics, and management, MIT launches its master’s program in Computation for Design and Optimization, one of the first curriculums in the country to focus on the computational modeling and design of complex engineered systems. The program prepares engineers for the challenges of making systems ranging from computational biology to airline scheduling to telecommunications design and operations run with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

2006 MIT creates the Campaign for Students, a fundraising effort dedicated to enhancing the educational experience at MIT through creating scholarships and fellowships, and supporting multidisciplinary education and student life.

2006 The MIT-Spain Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to Spain for internships.

2007 MIT makes material from virtually all MIT courses available online for free on OpenCourseWare. The publication marks the beginning of a worldwide movement toward open education that now involves more than 160 universities and 5,000 courses.

2008 The MIT-Israel Program is created within MISTI to train and send MIT students to Israel for internships; strengthen collaborations between MIT and Israel; and organize workshops, conferences, symposia and lectures at MIT and in Israel.

2009 MIT launches the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. Through interaction with industry leaders, faculty, and fellow students, the program aims to help undergraduate engineering students develop the skills, tools, and character they will need as future engineering leaders.

2009 The MIT-Brazil Program is created within MISTI to send MIT students to Brazil for internships and encourage research collaboration between faculty at MIT and in Brazil through the MIT-Brazil Seed Fund.

2009 MIT introduces a minor in energy studies, open to all undergraduates. The new minor, unlike most energy concentrations available at other institutions, and unlike any other concentration at MIT, is designed to be inherently cross-disciplinary, encompassing all of MIT’s five schools. It can be combined with any major subject. The minor aims to allow students to develop expertise and depth in their major disciplines, but then complement that with the breadth of understanding offered by the energy minor.

2010 MIT introduces the flexible engineering degree for undergraduates. The degree, the first of its kind, allows students to complement a deep disciplinary core with an additional subject concentration. The additional concentration can be broad and interdisciplinary in nature (energy, transportation, or the environment), or focused on areas that can be applied to multiple fields (robotics and controls, computational engineering, or engineering management).

2011 MIT announces MITx, an online learning initiative that will offer a portfolio of free MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform. The Institute expects the platform to enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students and serve as a host for a virtual community of millions of learners around the world. The MITx prototype course—6.002x or “Circuits and Electronics”—debuts in March 2012 with almost 155,000 people registering for the course.

2012 MIT and Harvard University announce edX, a transformational new partnership in online education. Through edX, the two institutions will collaborate to enhance campus-based teaching and learning and build a global community of online learners. An open-source technology platform will deliver online courses that move beyond the standard model of online education that relies on watching video content and will offer an interactive experience for students. The University of California at Berkeley later joins edX. The three institutions offer the first edX courses in fall 2012.

2012 Lincoln Laboratory debuts a new outreach program—a two-week summer residential program for high-school students. The program, Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers, focuses on radar technology. The project-based curriculum is based on a popular class offered during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) and taught by Laboratory technical staff. While the instructors adapted the IAP course to suit high-school students, they retained the challenging nature of the original class. The goal of the program is that students take away not only an understanding of radar systems but also the realization that engineering is about problem‐solving and applying knowledge in innovative ways.