SUTD-MIT education tie-up ends, but research partnership continues

SUTD officials declared the seven-year partnership with MIT a “major success”, noting that over 90 per cent of the Singapore university’s courses in four specialisations were developed by MIT. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) will not be renewing its education agreement with the illustrious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that helped it develop a distinctive curriculum to nurture graduates able to go beyond book smarts.

The seven-year partnership that began in 2010 is drawing to a close, after seeing two cohorts of SUTD students graduate with stellar job prospects.

However, SUTD will continue partnering MIT, dubbed the world's best engineering school, in research.

Still, the Singapore university will lose some of the MIT branding. It will not be able to use the tagline "established in collaboration with MIT", and the opportunities for student exchanges at MIT will lessen.

The dual master's programme and the post-doctoral programmes which enrol a small number of students will also be discontinued.

SUTD president Thomas Magnanti said that SUTD and MIT "had actually accomplished more than they had set out to do".

He said: "The curriculum is well in place and the SUTD faculty have been teaching the curriculum, so there is really no need to extend the education component of the agreement with MIT."

  • 270 Number of SUTD students who attended educational programmes at MIT.

He admitted that the loss of branding "might" affect admissions, but pointed to a survey which showed that the majority of students picked the university because of its design-centric curriculum and hands-on approach to learning - not the MIT link.

Asked about the prospect of fewer student exchanges with MIT, he said that SUTD is working to expand opportunities for students to go on overseas programmes at other universities.

Currently, 75 per cent of its students go on such programmes.

"Other than that, they are still going to get the same MIT curriculum, and it is going to be taught in the same way," Professor Magnanti said, adding that SUTD is in the process of developing its own master's programmes.

Professor John Brisson, who serves as director of the MIT-SUTD collaboration, said that it was not a divorce, but an "evolution" of the relationship.

He said: "In the first seven years, we were tasked with helping to develop a new university here, and we have done that in spades."

SUTD officials declared the partnership a "major success", noting that more than 90 per cent of SUTD's courses in four specialisations - architecture, engineering product development, engineering systems and information systems technology - were developed by MIT.

MIT had also helped in the recruitment and development of SUTD's faculty.

Also, 270 SUTD students got to attend educational programmes at MIT, including the summer Global Leadership Programme, where they worked with MIT students on large design projects, such as to build an electric car.

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, chairman of SUTD's board of trustees, and MIT Provost Martin Schmidt were delighted with the partnership that helped to establish the Singapore university's credentials.

Applications to SUTD have been rising 16 per cent year on year since its inception.

SUTD graduates are also sought after by employers. Two SUTD cohorts have since graduated, with more than 90 per cent landing jobs within six months of completing their studies.

A key feature of the MIT-SUTD research partnership is the establishment of an International Design Centre, which aims to become the world's premier hub for technologically intensive design.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline SUTD-MIT education tie-up ends, but research partnership continues. Subscribe