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MIT and University of Cambridge announce partnership

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (center) invited President Vest and Sir Alec Broers (right), vice-chancellor and head of Cambridge University, to meet with him Monday afternoon for 20 minutes in his office at Number10 Downing Street to congratulate them on the formation of the Cambridge-MIT Institute. On Monday morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Dr. Vest and Dr. Broers announced ...
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (center) invited President Vest and Sir Alec Broers (right), vice-chancellor and head of Cambridge University, to meet with him Monday afternoon for 20 minutes in his office at Number10 Downing Street to congratulate them on the formation of the Cambridge-MIT Institute. On Monday morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Dr. Vest and Dr. Broers announced the joint venture at a press conference attended by 80 reporters at the British Treasury.
Photo / Kenneth D. Campbell

The University of Cambridge and MIT began a major new partnership, a new form of academic enterprise building on the complementary strengths of two of the world's great universities.

The two universities will create the Cambridge-MIT Institute, a new education and research enterprise that has the financial backing of the UK Treasury for 80 percent of its $135 million (���84 million) budget for the first five years. The balance of the funding will be raised from British industry. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced the agreement Monday in London accompanied by President Charles M. Vest and the head of the University of Cambridge, Vice Chancellor Sir Alec Broers.

The Cambridge-MIT Institute's programs will include undergraduate, graduate student, and faculty exchanges; a program of integrated research; the adaptation to Britain of professional practice programs developed at MIT; and the creation of a national competitiveness network in Britain.

President Vest, at the signing ceremony in London, said "This agreement creates a bridge of the minds across the Atlantic between Cambridge, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"The opportunity to join forces with the University of Cambridge to advance knowledge and educate leaders for the new global society is tremendously exciting. We believe that the synergies of Cambridge and MIT will present unparalleled opportunities for education and research and will serve to establish bold new university-industry linkages and create new cultures of entrepreneurism."

The Cambridge-MIT Institute, utilizing faculty and students from the two universities, will develop educational and research programs designed to stimulate the development of new technologies, to encourage entrepreneurship, and to improve productivity and competitiveness. Although the initial focus of the new Institute will be on research and education at the intersection of engineering and management, faculty from all five of MIT's schools are expected to participate in some aspect of the program.

An undergraduate student exchange program is a central objective of the Cambridge-MIT Institute. Currently, many MIT undergraduates find it difficult to participate in junior year abroad programs due to their highly constrained curriculum. Through the development of a series of common third year subjects taught with distance learning technologies, students will be able to take the same subject whether they are enrolled at MIT or Cambridge. This innovation should permit up to 50 undergraduates a year from each university to spend their junior year at the other Cambridge campus.

Professor Richard Hynes of biology, who has studied at both Cambridge University and MIT, said, "I think this exchange plan is excellent. They are very different places. MIT is go-go-go, run-run-run.

"MIT students like constant testing. In Cambridge, they tend to think around and find the one way, rather than all the ways. That plays out in teaching. Teaching there is really very different. There is much less in the way of continual exams; you are more on your own. In Cambridge, there is basically one exam every three years -- you could explore a subject. Also, you always had choice on exams. You're much more independent there as a student -- you're given time to think, so it produces a different way of learning. It's very good for students to see and experience the other's style. I like both. I got a lot of out of both styles," Dr. Hynes said.

MIT programs for distance education with Cambridge will be based in part on experience gained in MIT's distance learning alliance with the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technical University.

Startup activities will include educational and research programs in manufacturing, product development and industrial competitiveness carried out jointly by MIT's Engineering Systems Division and Cambridge's Manufacturing Institute. A conference will be held of top executives from the US and the UK to discuss cooperative activities between industry and the new Institute.

Chancellor Lawrence Bacow, who has been working on the agreement for more than a year in close association with Daniel Roos, associate dean of engineering and head of the Engineering Systems Division, said in a statement, "What we are about to do is potentially historic. It could transform both institutions and truly create a new model for the global research university in the twenty-first century."

President Vest commented, "Modern industry is fast-paced, global in scale, knowledge-based, driven by innovation, and spawned by entrepreneurs. This program will not only help to stimulate industrial development in the UK, it will create a new generation of leaders and innovators on both sides of the Atlantic. Beyond that, the Cambridge-MIT Institute will give us opportunities to explore at a new level the use of cutting-edge information technologies in education and co-operative research. By bringing MIT and Cambridge together in this way, we can establish a model for the globally-linked research universities of the future."

"This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's address to MIT's Mid-Century Convocation, a momentous occasion in the history of MIT. Today, with the signing of this agreement, the eighth of November, 1999 is another historic day."

Chancellor Bacow added, "For the University of Cambridge, this new partnership represents an opportunity to capitalize on MIT's entrepreneurial culture; to build on MIT's innovative programs that tightly couple management and engineering education; and to collaborate in extending MIT's model of university-industry partnerships to the United Kingdom.

"For MIT, this partnership offers an opportunity to participate in the education of the next generation of European technology leaders; to develop important relationships with European industry; and to expose its students to the culture of Europe.

"For both institutions, the partnership offers opportunities to build strength upon strength in fields where we are each world leaders, to collaborate efficiently in new research and educational initiatives, and to work together with our industrial partners. By using advanced information technology to link our campuses, frequent student and faculty exchanges, joint research programs, the development of some common curricula, we seek to create as much as possible, a university that spans two Cambridges -- an extended Cambridge, equally accessible from both sides of the Atlantic to students, faculty, industry, and government," Dr. Bacow said.

Dean of Engineering Thomas Magnanti said, "For student and faculty exchanges, through basic research in the fields of science, technology and humanities, and through the use of contemporary distance education and collaboration tools, we are bringing together two of the world's great universities.

"Both Cambridge and MIT expect to have a significant impact on future technologies, and in the evolution of our economy in the fields like manufacturing, product development, logistics and entrepreneurship," Dr. Magnanti said.

Dean Richard Schmalensee of the Sloan School of Management said, "The Cambridge-MIT Institute is an exciting development that will reinforce our joint commitment to be at the forefront of innovation in management education and research in the global economy. We at Sloan welcome the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Cambridge to enhance our teaching and research programs, to advance technology-driven entrepreneurship, and to impart the knowledge and skills required to launch and grow successful global businesses."

Professor Rosalind Williams, the dean of students and undergraduate education, said, "We are experimenting here with a new kind of campus rooted in a local place but very much a global campus, a human exchange but also a technology exchange. This is definitely a two-way street. We have much we can learn from them."

The vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Alec Broers, has been at the forefront of Cambridge's development plans, creating links with industry and promoting entrepreneurial ideas. He said, "Higher education needs to think globally. Research universities of the caliber of Cambridge and MIT are substantial engines of economic growth and we need to think in terms of these long-term strategic partnerships.

"Universities have the ability to foster and develop ideas, often over a longer time scale than commerce and industry. This means that our collaboration with MIT at faculty and student level can bring long-term benefits, and we can develop major joint research programs. Our students will visit MIT to be immersed in its culture.

"For Cambridge and MIT, this Institute is the start of a dynamic and challenging partnership. We can create entrepreneurs who can use their inspiration and perspiration to build a stronger British economy. They could change the face of entrepreneurship and wealth creation in the UK."

This British competitiveness network will link together several universities throughout the UK. It will provide opportunities to convene meetings, conferences and seminars between industry, government and universities, and to coordinate research and distribute curricula regarding competitiveness, entrepreneurship and productivity.

The integrated research program will focus on how technology improves productivity, how technology-based enterprises grow out of academia, and how technology enterprises develop into world-class organizations. The new Institute will also link research programs in fields that are likely to have great impact on the evolution of future technology.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 10, 1999.

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