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Letter regarding preliminary report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education

The following email was sent today to the Institute community by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT community:

I write to share the preliminary report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education — along with my confidence that it will inspire deep conversations across our community about the future we want for MIT.

The report reflects the efforts of the three Task Force Working Groups: on MIT education and facilities, on global opportunities around edX and on new financial models for higher education. Since beginning work last April, the Working Groups supplemented their discussions by reaching out, formally and informally, to many faculty, students, alumni, Corporation members and staff.

Today, as they share their initial "report from the field," the Task Force members open the conversation to the whole community.

I asked Task Force members to be bold — and they have been. Their report does not attempt to define a definitive vision for the future of MIT education. But it does identify the issues at play and the opportunities now in reach.

In six months or so, the Task Force will submit a final report. The Working Groups will use that time to study the results of their extensive surveys, analyze responses to today’s report and thoughtfully select those proposals that merit structured experimentation. I see many intriguing ideas here: Making the curriculum more flexible and modular. Transforming the campus experience through "academic villages" and "maker spaces." Creating UROP-like apprenticeships in service. Rethinking how we teach ethics. Enlisting alumni as MITx mentors around the world. Engaging our students as global teachers through "MISTIx". Hosting an expanded menu of summer programs. The list of options is long — and I look forward to hearing how the community responds to these and other ideas.

However, along with its menu of possibilities, the report describes a tension that emerged in Working Group conversations and across the community: a tension between the passion to protect the core qualities and values that define an MIT education today, and the hunger for broad changes that build on MIT’s inspiring record of educational innovation.

This tension tells us that the work ahead will not be easy — and that it will be important. I urge you to read the report as participants in this great experiment. Capture your reactions and ideas, and share them via this address: We could not be involved in a conversation more central to the evolving nature of higher education, nor to the future of MIT.

Fifty-two members of our community serve on the Working Groups. To all of them, and to their leaders — Task Force co-chairs Sanjay Sarma, Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering and MIT’s Director of Digital Learning; Karen Willcox, Associate Department Head and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz — thank you for giving us a running start on MIT’s future.

With immense enthusiasm and deep gratitude,

L. Rafael Reif

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