Increasingly Técnico has been participating in a growing number of international networks and developing numerous partnerships with top institutions worldwide. We highlight three flagship partnerships, that represent seeds of change and played a transforming role for students, faculty and researchers: the MIT Portugal Program in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; the CMU Portugal Program, with the Carnegie Mellon University, also based in the USA; and the ISTEPFL Joint Doctoral Initiative, with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne of Switzerland.
These academic partnerships were all born, in the last decade, out of the joint initiative of the governmental and education sector to strengthen ties between Portuguese and foreign higher education institutions specialized in science and engineering. Today, they are recognized as premium academic partnerships – in addition to student and faculty exchange programs between the universities, they offer students the opportunity to have their thesis and research jointly supervised by professors both from Técnico and the partner institution.
Exclusive to the Técnico and the EPFL, the IST-EPFL Joint Doctoral Initiative is committed to granting students a joint degree that is validated by both universities, an undertaking that represents “a challenge”, according to Professor José Santos-Victor, the program’s director. “This offer requires a fairly deep mutual understanding of the institutions involved,” not easy to achieve.
Nevertheless, the efforts to establish a fruitful collaboration have been rewarded: “The EPFL is one of the best engineering schools in the world, is similar in size to Técnico and has made a remarkable journey over the last decade, a process that is inspiring to IST,” explains the professor. The program, which allows Portuguese and Swiss researchers to define research topics of mutual interest and to co-advise students in these areas, has contributed to a growing “institutional awareness of IST within the EPFL but also internationally”. The numerous awards and creation of high-potential companies by the students in the program have added “prestige” to this partnership.
The MIT Portugal Program (MPP) and the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, by contrast, are international partnerships that involve a large number of partners: Portuguese universities, industrial partners and research centers. Técnico functions as a key partner in both programs that also offer faculty and researchers the opportunity to participate in exchange programs.
“Over the years, Técnico’s PhD students have been studying at MIT, and are fully integrated in that academic system,” explains Professor Paulo Ferrão, MPP’s director. “In addition, the teaching staff has also been deeply involved in the college’s exchange program, (…) through collaborative research projects and the opportunity to participate in classes and activities at MIT.”
At the CMU Portugal they can enjoy the same opportunities, and the students are awarded a double degree from both universities: Técnico and Carnegie Mellon, where “they complete a program of study and rigorous research,” said CMU Professor José Fonseca Moura, the program’s director and a former student and professor at IST.
“This provides a continuous flow of high quality researchers into the Portuguese university system: the goal is to place Portugal at the forefront of innovation in the fields of information and communication technologies,” he added.