A dean from MIT is starting a radical new university with no majors, lectures, or classrooms

A new way of learning.
A new way of learning.
Image: Reuters/Jason Reed
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Can you imagine a university with no majors, no lectures, and no classrooms? MIT’s dean for graduate education is leaving her post to make that dream a reality.

Prof. Christine Ortiz recently announced her plan to create a radical new research university. ”I’m looking at a new model, where the whole sort of vocabulary is different,” she said. “I don’t see it having any face to face, on-the-ground lectures, actually.”

The material sciences professor will push for a new approach, which blurs the lines between undergraduates and graduates. The university, still unnamed, will still have physical infrastructure, but will prioritize on “project-based learning” where students learn by working together on a challenge for an extended period of time.

Ortiz is hoping to found the non-profit university in Massachusetts. She will take a year’s leave at the end of the current academic year to find a team of people to begin the project, though anticipates it might take longer than that.

Her new university is among a number of recent initiatives to change the way American students learn and the values they take away with them. Ivy League universities are now particularly keen to shake up their admission process and focus less on students with great grades and a set of extra-curricular activities, and prioritize meaningful experience instead.

Critics are growing increasingly frustrated with the US education model, which they say saps creativity and forces students to take and pay for classes they don’t need. Ortiz’s plan, though ambitious, may be the flexible learning students are looking for.

But it’s not going to be easy; even in non-traditional educational settings—like online learning—a large number of students still drop out from sheer boredom.