Skip to content

A greater exchange with US top universities?

Last week, I took part in Minister for Higher Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson’s, delegation trip to the US. The focus of our visit was MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A seat of learning that in many ways resembles KTH Royal Institute of Technology and that tops several international rankings.

Our presence there was the result of a meeting between Professor Carlo Ratti at MIT, the CEO of Stockholm Chamber of Commerce Maria Rankka and Helene Hellmark Knutsson.

Carlo Ratti runs a research initiative, Senseable City Lab (, which in overarching terms combines urban planning and computer science and big data to build the cities of the future. Having the whole of Stockholm as a “live-in lab” is Carlo Ratti’s vision. Amsterdam is already such a city. A condition for the Stockholm collaboration, according to Carlo Ratti, is that it takes place in partnership with KTH.

MIT is naturally a great deal more than urban planning, and KTH researchers already have several comprehensive partnerships with MIT. But I hope this invitation can lead to deeper collaboration with the City of Stockholm and several of KTH’s partners while allowing us to develop a model for closer partnership with MIT.

MIT has a fairly new internationalisation strategy and is possibly turning towards the outside world a little more than before. MIT students can go on exchanges during certain periods: in January or during the summer months. On the other hand, they can’t take courses during their exchange periods. The international exchanges are primarily intended for internships of various kinds, which can take place at other universities or within the business community. It feels great that KTH’s students have broader opportunities, i.e. they can take courses during international exchanges or carry out projects and degree projects. This better prepares our students for professional life and its ever-growing requirements for working with people from all over the world.

KTH currently has five strategic international partner universities, of which four are located in Asia. Partner universities signify a more systematic and long-term initiative that involves collaboration on both education and research. Our choice of international partner university is based on mutual interest in student exchange, coupled with building good relationships between researchers. There needs to be both a certain volume and a certain level of quality in the relationships between KTH and its international partner universities. At the present time, KTH has only one partner university in the US.

During our short trip, the delegation also squeezed in a meeting with a representative from Harvard. Harvard has also recently appointed an internationalisation coordinator but has no internationalisation strategy in place.

When you are at the pinnacle of the rankings, you haven’t experienced such a pressing need to actively seek out global partnerships – that’s how it seems to me. But we got the impression that this is slowly changing and that Harvard would welcome an invitation to visit KTH and discuss a deeper partnership. So it’s clear that Harvard also wants to be more outward-looking.

The next step will involve us drafting a model and content for partnership between KTH and MIT. I have high hopes for continued dialogue on effective collaboration in the field of sustainable cities and urban development.