Cambridge-MIT Exchange shrinks

Program will field fewer students

Along with the rest of the U.K., the Cambridge side of the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME) Program is facing financial troubles this year. The number of students that the program can admit this year dropped to 15 each from Cambridge and MIT, down from 20–30 each in past years.

According to Malgorzata Hedderick, Associate Dean of Global Education, the U.K. education sector faced significant cuts amidst the economic downturn. As a result, the University of Cambridge was forced to make cuts, and terminated the central-level funding for the CME program.

Because Cambridge as a whole will no longer fund the CME program, each individual department will need to find its own funding to continue sending students to MIT.

The engineering department was the only department at Cambridge able to find funding for their students. According to the department’s website, support from BP has enabled them to send 15 students to MIT in the 2011–2012 academic year. However, because the funding is restricted to the Engineering Department, only electrical, civil, mechanical, and aero-astro engineering students will be able to participate.

“There’s no funding, presently, for the other disciplines. But one physics student was able to obtain funding on his own and is hoping to come, which is very much an exception,” Hedderick said.

Despite these restrictions on the Cambridge side, Hedderick said that an agreement has been reached to allow MIT to send students outside of the four engineering disciplines mentioned above.

Elizabeth C. Wiltshire CME is a third-year Cambridge student who may be the last materials science exchange student from Cambridge, since her major is not part of the engineering department.

Wiltshire said CME is a prestigious program at Cambridge with very competitive admissions. “I know a lot of people who didn’t get in. I heard that about a few hundred chemical engineers applied.” She also said that unlike MIT, which has both CME and MISTI, there are barely any other open foreign exchange programs at Cambridge.

Even though she still only pays the Cambridge tuition that is significantly lower than MIT’s — Cambridge tuition is $5,600 per academic year, and MIT tuition is $40,460 per academic year — Wiltshire has to pay for her accommodations and all other costs here at MIT, which are higher than those in the U.K. After subtracting her CME stipend, she still had to spend a few thousand pounds more at MIT. She noted, however, that it is natural to want to spend and do more in a new environment.

Wiltshire expressed regret about the program’s financial difficulties. “It’s been an absolutely amazing experience. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find more funding, ” she said.

It seems the funding issue is only present on the U.K. side. According to Hedderick, MIT has a very firm commitment to the CME program, and has no problem sending more students over if Cambridge can. Nevertheless, MIT cannot send more students over than it receives because CME is a balanced exchange program. However, only the total number of students in the exchange needs to be balanced — while Cambridge is only allowed to send engineering students to MIT at the moment, MIT is still allowed to send students in other disciplines.

“Of course, we’ll work to build the number [of CME students] up. We’ll keep talking to our Cambridge colleagues to see where they can find funding,” Hedderick said.