Friday, July 20, 2007

How many foreign students enrolled in MIT?

When questions about foreign students in local universities are raised, Education Ministry officials and journalists from the nation building press like to quote MIT. The latest attempt was made by Pearl Forss:

Top universities in the world, such as MIT, have more than 40 percent foreign students

I don't know where she got her numbers from, but according to wikipedia, only 9.2% of the undergraduate student population are foreigners. The figure rises to 39.3% for graduate studies. It is clearly UNDER 40% no matter how you count. She is talking about Massachusetts Institute of Technology right, not some other MIT?

If you think wikipedia is unreliable, go do your own calculation using statistics straight from MIT:

1. Go to this one for the size of the undergraduate and graduate population: MIT Facts 2007: Enrollments 2006-2007

2. This one for the foreign students: MIT Facts 2007: International Students and Scholars

And MIT has one of the highest proportion of foreign students of all US universities, and is clearly the highest among the top US universities. Furthermore, the biggest group of these international students are Canadians, for a university just a few hours drive from the Canadian border.

Instead of justifying local universities having 20% foreigners at undergraduate level and 50% at graduate level, the MIT experience shows that we are way ahead of international norms.


  1. Does it EVEN matter what MIT does or does not do? The comparison is not completely legitimate when MIT is privately-funded and has little obligation to taxpayers, if at all, unlike NUS. MIT has free rein to play around with student demographics, while the mostly government-funded NUS should not. It is both moot and pointless to compare.

    And so what if NUS is ahead of international norms? As long as NUS carries with it the public burden, catching up with large, established private universities is practically impossible.

  2. Why even compare to MIT? Not even close to being in the same class.

  3. According to some old buffoon, singapore is unique, as such it is unfair to compare NUS to MIT.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Jonathan, anonymous and Marc.

    I agree they are comparing apples with oranges. If we really want to emulate MIT's student population, we should reserve 90% of our undergraduate places to those born in the USA.

    I point this out to show that, like the MOS for Education Gan Kim Yong, many education officials and journalists are either intentionally trying to mislead Singaporeans, or are ignorantly repeating hearsay without doing some fact checking, which brings the trustworthiness of the mainstream media to question.

  5. ChannelNewsAsia (July 19th, by Pearl Forss) lied when they said "Top universities in the world, such as MIT, have more than 40 percent foreign students". (Recall that their context was made to support the govt's stance on why our universities reserved 20% of the undergraduate seats for foreigners?)

    MIT website stated clearly that "International citizens" comprises only 8% of the undergraduate student profile!!

  6. another 1 up for the gahmen, we can add education too where Singaporeans are 2nd class in their own country.

    it really shows doesn't it. foreigners are kings and we are just the peons born to serve them.