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MIT Study Names Olin College World Leader in Engineering Education

A new MIT study has named Olin College of Engineering, along with MIT, as the top leaders in engineering education globally.

The study, “The global state of the art in engineering education,” commissioned by MIT in support of its New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative, was conducted in 2016 and 2017 and released this week. Its author, Dr. Ruth Graham, interviewed 50 global thought leaders in engineering education to identify the world’s most highly regarded undergraduate engineering programs and characterize the approach taken by these top-ranked institutions. 

The study focuses on current as well as emerging leaders in the field, with Olin and MIT appearing as first and second most frequently cited, respectively, in the current leaders category. Also among the top 10 current leaders are Stanford University, Aalborg University in Denmark and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Four institutions among the current leaders also appear on the emerging leaders list, with Olin and Singapore University of Technology and Design most frequently cited for the potential to lead engineering education reform in the future.

“We commend MIT for conducting this study and making it transparent so we can all learn from each other,” said Olin College President Richard K. Miller. “We consider ourselves to be a national educational design laboratory and this study encourages our faculty and students to continue to explore the frontiers of learning. We seek to serve as a proof-of-concept that change can happen in academia and as a catalyst to help others evolving their learning practices and culture.” 

Among the pedagogical features shared by the current leaders in engineering education are multiple opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning throughout the curriculum, the application of user-centered design principles and partnerships with industry, all of which characterize the learning program at Olin. In addition, Olin was cited specifically for its “multidisciplinary student-centered education that extends across and beyond traditional engineering disciplines and is anchored in issues of ethics and social responsibility.” 

The study also looks at future trends in engineering education. These include a shift in the global axis of education leadership to emerging “powerhouses” in Asia and South America, and a wide-ranging movement toward socially relevant engineering curricula that emphasize student choice. Among the challenges are aligning institutional goals and faculty incentives, and delivering curricular reforms — many of which were developed at small laboratory schools like Olin — at scale.

“This is a very exciting time in engineering education, and there is widespread recognition that we need to do things differently,” said Miller. “We are truly at a turning point, and I look forward to working with others to scale up some of the lessons we’ve learned at Olin.”

The report may be viewed at neet.mit.edu