On 9 and 10 March 2018, UCL and KU Leuven will organise a joint mission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. It’s the first joint international mission for the two Belgian universities since the split. The schedule includes the signing by KU Leuven and MIT of a researcher exchange programme (in which UCL is already involved) and a prestigious meeting with all the two universities’ honorary doctorate holders from Harvard and MIT.
It’s never been done since the University of Louvain split in ’68: KU Leuven and UCL are travelling together to MIT. So what’s the goal? UCL plans to strengthen its links with the Institute and renew two exchange programmes for researchers and students. KU Leuven, meanwhile, will be joining one of these programmes for its researchers.
What purpose do these exchange programmes serve? For researchers from both institutions, they provide an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of their research field in the MIT laboratories (and vice versa), creating a partnership beneficial to the development of new technologies and new scientific publications as well as closer links between the three universities. As this UCL researcher puts it, ‘To think together we have to work together’.
For many years, UCL has been the only Belgian university to belong to the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). The objective of this programme is to connect MIT students with internship offers, courses and research opportunities abroad and facilitate international collaboration between professors, researchers and partner companies. ‘This internship has definitively changed the way I see the world and this profession,’ says Ben Myers, a student at MIT and intern at UCL.
The agreement between MIT and UCL is divided into three parts:
- The MIT Belgium UCL Seed Funds
- The student exchange programme
- The edX platform for free online courses, on which UCL hosts its MOOCs
The UCL/KU Leuven mission also provides an opportunity for a meeting between the two rectors Luc Sels and Vincent Blondel and a number of eminent professors from Harvard and MIT who have been awarded the title of doctor honoris causa by the two universities in recent years (including Anant Agarwal, Eric Lander, Lawrence Lessig, Esther Duflo, Partha Dasgupta and Joseph Stiglitz). This is a way of creating an additional link between the two sister universities on the international stage, and recalling the close ties that exist with these two prestigious American institutions.
Information about the MISTI agreement http://misti.mit.edu/belgium-seed-fund