Paul Penfield, Jr. and Jesús A. del Alamo, The MIT EECS Master of Engineering, Proceedings of the Engineering Foundation Conference, Realizing the New Paradigm for Engineering Education, Baltimore, MD, pp. 38 - 42; June 3-6, 1998. Abstract. Presentation. Text.

The MIT EECS Master of Engineering

MIT logo  . .

Paul Penfield, Jr.

Professor of Electrical Engineering
Head, Department of Electrical
   Engineering and Computer Science

Jesús A. del Alamo

Professor of Electrical Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307

The MIT EECS Master of Engineering

New Degree Program
 . . Major features
 . .  . . Intended to lead to practice of engineering
 . .  . . Five-year program
 . .  . . Simultaneous bachelor's and master's degrees
 . .  . . Available to top 3/4 of EECS undergraduates; used by 2/3
 . .  . . Seamless flow from undergraduate to graduate years
 . .  . . Continuation of undergraduate structure to the graduate year
 . .  . . Seamless integration of EE and CS
 . .  . . Contains three bachelor's programs as proper subsets

History
 . . 1986 -- Start of serious discussions
 . . 1990 -- Departmental decision to proceed
 . . 1992 -- University approvals
 . . 1994 -- First graduates (35)
 . . 1996 -- Accreditation
 . . 1998 -- General review


Why is the Program Needed?

Simple model of educational programs in engineering
 . . Bachelor's
 . .  . . General education
 . .  . . Entry-level engineering
 . .  . . Foundation for other professions (medicine, law, etc.)
 . . Master's
 . .  . . Practice of engineering
 . .  . . Engineering management
 . .  . . Finance, consulting, & other careers needing analytical skills
 . . Doctoral
 . .  . . Research
 . .  . . Teaching
 . . Post-doc
 . .  . . Employment buffer


What Was Wrong?

MIT EECS degree programs in 1990 not based on this model
 . . S.B. (bachelor's)
 . .  . . VI-1, Electrical Science and Engineering
 . .  . . VI-3, Computer Science and Engineering
 . . VI-A Internship, simultaneous S.M. (master's) and S.B.
 . . S.M. for students pursuing doctorates
 . . Ph.D. (doctoral)

Traditional Structure is 4 years + 1 year (4+1)
 . . Extra constraint complicates planning
 . .  . . Some graduate courses not offered every year
 . . University governance (committees, etc.) based on 4+1

S.M. admission based on research ability (wrong measure)
 . . Those who might benefit the most excluded


Getting Started

Original vision
 . . Bill Siebert saw it most clearly
 . . Our graduates told us they needed a master's degree
 . .  . . . . . by going out and getting one

Internal discussions
 . . Late 1980s
 . . Agreement in principle by many in department

New Department Head
 . . September, 1989
 . . Decision to proceed made within a year
 . . Committees formed to do the hard work
 . . Key people:
 . .  . . Bill Siebert, Cam Searle, John Guttag, Paul Penfield


Concerns about New Master's Program

Impact on undergraduate program
 . . Negative feelings of those not admitted to M.Eng. program
 . . Effect on gender and racial diversity

Impact on VI-A Internship Program
 . . This program already provided a five-year path to master's
 . .  . . Did students want the industrial experience or just the degree?

Impact on doctoral program
 . . Less capable students in first-year graduate courses

Impact on department
 . . Shift of emphasis toward professional education

Impact on MIT
 . . Program might be too popular
 . .  . . Already 30% of MIT undergraduates majored in EECS


Concerns about New Program (cont)

Increased technical specialization
 . . Would our student be better served by more breadth?

Students might try to do it in four years
 . . because of lack of financial aid for fifth year

Difficulty of finding enough short-length thesis topics

Difficulty of enforcing short thesis

Prestige of new degree, compared with S.M.


Departmental Consensus Needed

Undergraduate Educational Policy Committee (department)
 . . Desire to bring existing EE and CS curricula together
 . .  . . First in having uniform structure
 . .  . . Next in allowing student flexibility
 . .  . . Ultimately, in new program without specialization, VI-2
 . . Endless discussions
 . . Summer workshop

Committee on Graduate Students (department)
 . . Desire to keep S.M. for people from outside
 . .  . . Shorten thesis to match M.Eng. in length
 . .  . . Make M.Eng. available only to EECS undergraduates
 . .  . . Make S.M. available only to students from outside
 . . Path to doctorate unchanged except master's thesis earlier

Department faculty consensus
 . . Many meetings of various types
 . . Mandatory vote, not anonymous, sent to department head
 . .  . . Overwhelming support, despite some real concerns


University Approvals Required

Three amendments to Rules and Regulations of the Faculty
 . . New degree name, Master of Engineering
 . . Make it like other master's programs in GPA requirements
 . . Make it different in structure, length of thesis, specified field

These amendments merely defined the degree

Approvals then needed for our M.Eng. program (the first)
 . . Changes to bachelor's programs (VI-1 and VI-3)
 . . New unspecialized bachelor's program (VI-2)
 . . New master's program

MIT committees not used to mixing undergraduate and graduate programs

Principal objection was lack of context material
 . . New material was almost all technical
 . . This was considered an opportunity lost


Business Plan

Needed to secure resources from Dean

Steady-state assumptions
 . . About 200 undergraduates per year
 . . No university financial aid available for fifth year
 . . Undergraduate population unchanged
 . . Undergraduates select EE or CS in same proportion
 . . No new graduate courses but more students in existing ones

Self-imposed constraints
 . . Same advising load per faculty
 . . Same teaching style
 . . Shorter master's thesis, to make five-year program realistic

Needs
 . . New faculty, TAs, support staff
 . . Added up to 50% of incremental tuition revenue

Three transition-year budgets also needed


Resulting Programs

Three bachelor's programs
 . . VI-1 (Elec Sci & Eng); VI-3 (Comp Sci & Eng); VI-2 (EECS)
 . . Identical structure
 . . VI-1 and VI-3 were continuations of existing programs
 . . Capstone project, instead of S.B. thesis

New M.Eng. program
 . . Similar to existing VI-A Internship Program
 . .  . . . . . but without the industrial experience
 . . Admission at end of junior year, mostly by grades
 . . Minimal fifth-year financial aid (loan interest forgiveness)
 . . S.B. degree requirements a proper subset
 . . Short thesis (half time, one semester)

Changed S.M. program
 . . For those from outside entering the doctoral program
 . . Shorter thesis, to match the M.Eng. thesis


Results

Registration
 . . Increased undergraduate interest in EECS
 . . Shift in interest from EE to CS (this is a national trend)
 . . New VI-2 program most popular
 . . M.Eng. pursued by two-thirds of the undergraduates
 . . Gender and racial diversity unchanged

Accreditation
 . . Not sought for M.Eng.
 . . All three bachelor's programs accredited by ABET in 1996
 . . VI-3 and VI-2 programs accredited by CSAB in 1996
 . . New VI-2 program back-accredited for two years
 . .  . . (this covers all graduates of the program)

Surprise
 . . Only 60% of the M.Eng. students get simultaneous degrees
 . .  . . Many march with their four-year classmates


Results (cont)

Impact on other programs
 . . VI-A Internship applications and enrollment down
 . .  . . many factors, not just the M.Eng. program
 . .  . . More small companies, fewer long-range projects
 . . Larger first-year graduate courses
 . .  . . Must serve needs of weaker students
 . . Shorter master's thesis is working, for both M.Eng. and S.M.
 . .  . . Enforced by loss of financial aid
 . .  . . Thesis topics are available
 . . No known adverse effects on bachelor's programs

Finances
 . . Student head-count targets in business plan met
 . . Unrelated 6% budget reduction during this period
 . .  . . Offset in part by M.Eng. increases
 . . 70% M.Eng.students get some financial aid (RA, TA, ...)
 . . Many students are taking out loans, as expected
 . .  . . Estimated time for payback, 7 years worst-case


Results (cont)

Academic Performance
 . . GPA of M.Eng. students 0.1 below that of S.M. students
 . . M.Eng. students active in research when undergraduates
 . . Acceptance rate into Ph.D. program high for those who apply
 . . Five-year schedule realistic
 . .  . . Average time from entry to MIT to M.Eng. degree, 5.1 years

Program Satisfaction
 . . Students overwhelmingly satisfied with the program
 . . Some faculty unhappy with performance in graduate classes
 . . A few faculty unhappy with short thesis
 . . Program requirements considered too complicated
 . . Lots of minor administrative hassles dealing with seams
 . .  . . The usual paradigm separates undergraduates and graduates
 . .  . . Example: Registrar computes separate UG and Grad GPAs
 . . Some faculty cannot advise both EE and CS students
 . . Industry recruiters value M.Eng. as much as S.M.


Other Programs

Other MIT M.Eng. programs follow different model
 . . (We do not understand why)
 . . 4+1 format, not integrated with bachelor's programs
 . . People from other universities admitted
 . . Examples:
 . .  . . Civil and Environmental Engineering
 . .  . .  . . Environmental and Water Quality
 . .  . .  . . Environmental Geotechnology
 . .  . .  . . High Performance Structures
 . .  . .  . . Information Technology
 . .  . . Aeronautics and Astronautics
 . .  . . Nuclear Engineering
 . .  . . Ocean Engineering
 . .  . .  . . Marine Environmental Systems
 . .  . . Logistics (interdepartmental)

Other universities have not adopted this model
 . . (as far as is known)


Next Steps

Continued attention to implementation details
 . . If you don't take care of the details they will take care of you

MIT EECS Program Review
 . . Fall 1998
 . . Mandated by faculty vote in 1992

Major changes still needed
 . . Context (related nontechnical material)
 . . Leadership or general education component
 . . Incorporation of biological ideas

Export
 . . Encourage others to mount similar programs


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Created: May 26, 1998  |  Modified: Feb 25, 1999
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