Singapore

SUTD completes 7-year tie-up with MIT this month, but says it’ll still be ‘business as usual’

SUTD completes 7-year tie-up with MIT this month, but says it’ll still be ‘business as usual’
Singapore University of Technology and Design. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY
Published: 12:30 PM, June 23, 2017
Updated: 10:05 PM, June 23, 2017

SINGAPORE — The seven-year educational partnership between the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will be completed at the end of the month. However, SUTD has reassured students that there will be minimal impact to them and that it will largely be business as usual. 

While fewer SUTD students will head to MIT for their summer and winter student exchange programmes, the university’s curriculum — developed in collaboration with MIT — will remain unchanged. 

Its research collaboration with MIT will also continue, added SUTD, the Republic’s fourth autonomous university. TODAY understands that fees for the university will not be tweaked.

Currently, SUTD students have the opportunity to head to MIT during their mid-year and year-end term breaks. A total of 134 students have gone through the 10-week Global Leadership Programme — offered during the mid-year break — and another 156 students have gone through the three-week Winter Independent Activity Period at MIT. 

MIT has sent more than 100 student interns to Singapore. 

While opportunities for student exchange to MIT will be reduced, SUTD said it is working to expand opportunities for students to go for their exchange programmes. 

The university added that around 75 per cent of its student population of around 1,900 have the opportunity to go for an overseas exchange programme, in over 24 universities in 11 countries. 

The university’s current collaboration with MIT includes undergraduate curriculum development, student exchanges, as well as co-teaching of subjects.  

MIT has developed 90 per cent of the SUTD undergraduate curriculum, and offers a dual Masters degree programme with SUTD. The Masters degree programme will no longer be offered, as well. 

As part of the changes, the tagline now on some of SUTD’s collaterals — “Established in collaboration with MIT” — will also be removed. 

The SUTD-MIT Inernational Design Centre, housed at SUTD’s campus, will still be around. 

SUTD also has research and academic partnerships with China’s Zhejiang University, which will remain unchanged. 

Noting that the partnership with MIT has been “great”, SUTD president Thomas Magnanti said the university is now “capable of providing unique education programmes independently”.

“It has been very successful ... (and) we will continue to work with MIT. I think it is very important for everyone to understand that,” he added. 

Professor Magnanti said SUTD had “completed more than what we set out to do” in the partnership. 

“The (initial) agreement had certain provisions, (like) a smaller amount of courses, (and) a smaller exchange programme.

“Over time, as we have worked collaboratively with MIT, we have enhanced the collaboration in a wide variety of ways,” he said. 

MIT EXCHANGE PROGRAMME WILL BE MISSED: STUDENTS

The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions from SUTD students. 

Some, such as first-year student Chris Kyaw, were “disappointed” that the conclusion of the partnership would mean fewer opportunities to go to MIT. 

The 21-year-old said he had chosen the university for its collaboration with MIT.

While he felt “a bit cheated that it was ending”, he said he would “work hard to go on an overseas exchange programme” in the future. 

Like Mr Kyaw, most students whom TODAY spoke to admitted that the MIT partnership was among the reasons why they had chosen to study at SUTD. But some stressed that it was not the only reason.

A first-year student who wanted to be known only as Ms Lee, said that while she was a bit disappointed that the collaboration was ending, she was confident that the “quality of education would still be there”. 

For Mr Leong Kei Sheng, 20, the “slight loss of opportunity” in going to MIT for a student exchange was of concern to him. Still, he noted that “there are still other opportunities available elsewhere”. 

Some SUTD students agreed that the MIT-SUTD partnership had benefited the school. 

Mr Chan Wei Ren, 23, who went on a summer exchange programme at MIT, said that he was “glad the collaboration existed” with MIT, “because without it we wouldn’t have the curriculum (and opportunities) we have had”. 

Madam Jenny Phua, whose 18-year-old daughter was considering whether to join SUTD, was one of those who felt that the changes were “not a major drawback”  for the university.

Mdm Phua, 50,  said that SUTD’s differentiated curriculum which she had heard about would still make the university a “top choice” for her daughter. 

On how the changes might affect admissions, Prof Magnanti said that while he thinks there might be some effect, the university will be “working to ensure that (prospective students) understand” that the MIT curriculum, among other things, will remain unchanged. 

SUTD received more than 3,000 applications this year. The university currently has a first-year cohort of 439 students, and plans to expand it to 500 in the coming two to three years.