CME ends after BP cuts corporate sponsorship

No, it wasn’t Brexit’s fault

The Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME), after fifteen years of being MIT’s flagship international exchange program, will come to an end after the 2016-2017 school year.

Cambridge University chose to withdraw from CME after the corporate sponsor, BP, terminated their financial support for the program on the Cambridge end. Since Cambridge students participating in the CME only pay 15% of their tuition during their year abroad, the university has relied on BP to help make up the difference.

The Tech sat down with GECD Associate Dean Malgorzata Hedderick and Executive Director Melanie Parker to discuss the end of the CME and the state of MIT’s global opportunities programs.

Asked why BP chose to end their partnership with CME, Hedderick said that “we can only make some assumptions based on what we know,” citing the financial challenges that BP faced during the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 as the most likely reason. During a recent “significant restructuring,” she added, BP had to make difficult choices about funding that resulted in cuts from many higher education partnerships. Parker noted that BP also cut some of their research funds to MIT, saying that she knows “it wasn’t desirable ... but it was something they had to do from a business standpoint.”

And though it is tempting to attribute all recent British problems to Brexit, the withdrawal of BP from CME is most likely “unrelated, and the Brexit vote was coincidental,” according to Parker.

The CME has been the most popular exchange program at MIT, with 789 students across both universities participating over 15 years. The group for this year’s program, which will be the last, involves 21 students Cambridge and 19 MIT students.

While study abroad is not as popular at MIT as it is in other universities of comparable caliber, participation at MIT still exceeds the national average for STEM colleges – 3% of the student population. General participation in global opportunities, however, is highly and increasingly popular at MIT: preliminary results from the 2016 graduate survey indicates that around 50% of the class of 2016 had participated in at least one MIT global program. This is up 5% from the previous year, and twice the rate in 2007.

Parker attributes this increase in part to an alumni gift from the Victor Fung Foundation dedicated to supporting global opportunities, as well as increased awareness of international issues.

GECD emphasized that “there are still opportunities for MIT students in the UK,” including UROP exchanges with the Imperial College of London. And the department hopes to find a replacement for the CME. “We will be actively looking for what will be the best fit,” said Hedderick.

“There was a larger initiative between Cambridge and MIT that spawned [the CME],” added Parker. “It’s an important relationship and we don’t want to let go of that.”

For students interested in going global, the GECD’s Go Global fair will take place on September 13.