QS World University Rankings 2022: Q&A With MIT Provost | Top Universities

QS World University Rankings 2022: Q&A With MIT Provost

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Chloe Lane

Updated Jun 23, 2021



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The recently released QS World University Rankings 2022 is QS’s largest rankings ever, with 1,300 universities featured.  

For the 10th year in a row – a new record – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been named the best school in the world. 

We had the pleasure of speaking to MIT Provost Marty Schmidt about how MIT has retained its top-ranking position for a decade, and what the future holds for MIT. 

How does it feel for MIT to be named the world’s best university for the tenth consecutive year?  

What I can best describe is how it feels when our community members are effectively pursuing their interests, advancing knowledge, and seeing their scholarship and research have an impact. 

We appreciate the recognition of the faculty, staff, alumni, and students who make MIT what it is – and we admire the achievements of academic institutions around the globe. 

We remain humble in the face of all that is unknown and unsolved and unexplored, while still incredibly proud of the research, teaching, and learning that take place at MIT.  

The Institute is full of a diverse community of people from all corners of the globe dedicated to solving the world’s most difficult problems. Their efforts have a demonstrable impact through ambitious high-impact activities.  

While we appreciate the recognition of this ranking, we feel the achievements of academic institutions around the globe are myriad and worthy of celebration.  

The world benefits from a strong, diverse, and vibrant higher education network. We at MIT benefit from that network through the exchange of ideas and people. That network is enormous and awe-inspiring. 

What sets MIT apart from other schools?  

We have a robust history of collaboration, not only with our peer institutions in higher education, but also with industry, government, non-profits, and other stakeholders. 

I think an inclusive and flourishing innovation ecosystem is a well of inspiration that enables anyone with an interest in problem-solving and entrepreneurship to get involved.  

For more than 60 years, MIT has worked alongside the City of Cambridge, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and partners in industry to create and foster an innovation ecosystem in our Kendall Square neighbourhood. It is often called the most innovative square mile on Earth.  

MIT as an institution really focuses on how we can take the ideas on this campus and move them out so they have impact. President Reif often cites the importance of reducing the time it takes for ideas to make it from the classroom to the market, and the power of proximity is one of the ways we aim to do just that. 

Another unique component of MIT is its Visiting Committees. These external program review committees, which include a diverse group of outside scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, and educators, convene every other year to offer insight and advice on all academic departments. They are a source of inspiration for the MIT community. MIT would not be MIT without them. 

How does MIT plan to maintain its position as the best university in the world?  

I’d like to answer this question by restating advice we often share with prospective students, as articulated in this blog post written by our dean of admissions: 

“In simple terms, we want students to pursue the things that interest them with energy and enthusiasm. We want students to make decisions that are educationally sound for them to best prepare them to succeed in college and beyond.  

“We want students to challenge themselves appropriately in the areas that are most interesting to them. We want students to engage with their community in their pursuits. And, we want students who demonstrate strong ethical character.  

“In short, we want young people to be students and community members first, and applicants second.” 

Just as we counsel young students to focus first and foremost on what’s best and most interesting for them, at MIT we set our expectations for ourselves based on what challenges most interest our community, how we can best achieve our mission, and whether what we’re looking to do supports our pursuit of a better world. 

MIT’s stated mission is to: “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” That’s what drives us and that’s our primary focus. It's served us well so far, and that mission is going to continue to act as our road map for the future. 

Is there any recent research that MIT is particularly proud of?   

That’s like trying to pick a favourite child – I’m proud of all the work being done at MIT. 

Part of what I appreciate so much about MIT is that this question is difficult to answer. The research portfolio at MIT is driven by the wide and varied interests of the faculty members, and that kind of personal investment in what they’re working on makes a crucial difference.  

Some are pushing the bounds of fundamental discovery and our understanding of the universe – research whose impact we can’t begin to predict.  

Faculty and students are working together to reimagine the built environment and ways we live together for a sustainable and equitable future. Others are digging deep into economics and ethics.  

Arts and culture activities across the campus unite our community and help to increase understanding and awareness.  

Across almost every department, MIT researchers are working on health in some capacity, whether in human health or the health of the planet. 

Our researchers lead advances across the spectrum in ways that we hope will have a tangible positive impact on people’s lives.  

From designing a capsule that will allow people with diabetes to take insulin orally, to using AI to detect breast cancer; to connecting the world of art to science and technology; to treating Alzheimer’s with light and sound; to elevating the study of endometriosis so it is no longer considered a ‘women’s disease;’ our faculty members engage in pressing issues across the board. 

In May, MIT announced its ambitious plan for tackling the climate crisis, Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade. The plan mobilizes the people of MIT on every aspect of the climate problem, from producing more precise predictions to shaping policy decisions to educating the next generation of climate leaders.  

I’m most enthusiastic about the way this plan challenges our faculty to pursue breakthrough solutions and connect us with industry to bring those solutions to scale in the real world. 

We at MIT honestly believe this is a crisis, which is why we’ve created such an ambitious plan that calls on all departments across the Institute to work together toward this goal. 

Aside from the academic prestige, why should students consider applying for MIT?  

As a student, a faculty member, and now as provost, I am honoured to have been a part of the MIT community for almost 40 years. It’s a truly interdisciplinary, collaborative, thought-provoking place that encourages experimentation and pushes you to expand your mind. I think it’s a wonderful place to call home. 

That being said, I highly recommend that all students considering applying to MIT do their own research on the Institute.  

One great resource is our admissions blogs, which are written by current students and admissions staff. The students choose their own topics, so you can read blogs about classes, life in the dorms, and learn about what winter in Massachusetts is like for students from warm-weather climates.  

Choosing the right college is about much more than a school’s ranking, so it’s important to look at the whole experience and choose a place that works for you. 

What advice would you give to someone applying to MIT?  

Be yourself. Prospective students often look for a magic answer that will ensure admission to MIT, but there isn’t one.  

Our admissions office uses a holistic approach, meaning they review each candidate as a whole – not just their test scores or which competitions they won in high school.  

Our admissions officers are looking to create a class of students who will complement each other and thrive at MIT. So be yourself, and you might be just the fit they’re looking for. 

And if you’re not, don’t worry. MIT is a great school, but it is not the only great school. The most important factor in your college career is you. If you make your education a priority, you’ll be successful no matter where you go. 

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