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MEng is a Graduate Level Program

MEng is a Graduate Level Program

I am writing in response to Altschul's column in a recent issue of The Tech ["Mastering An Undergrad Program," Feb. 6]. I take exception to Altschul's arguments and conclusion that Master of Engineering "students are genuinely undergraduates," and nothing more. It seems that he may be attempting to make this point to support the construction of a new undergraduate dormitory, but it is not completely clear from his article that this is the case. I do hope that he is not trying to discount the work and research of MEng students at MIT.

Altschul makes several attempts to show how an MEng degree program is similar to an undergraduate degree program, and concludes from these attempts that the MEng not a graduate degree. However, the fact that the MEng. programs subsume their respective undergraduate programs does not mean that these MEng. programs do not also include serious graduate level work. In fact, it is my understanding that these programs (or at least the Course VI program) are expressly designed to allow students to progress from their undergraduate work into graduate level research without the extensive commitment of the PhD program. MEng still provides graduate level research experience; it is just that it allows you to finish your research in less than 3 or 4 years.

The only evidence that Altschul provides to show that the MEng program does not include any individual graduate research work is the fact that the MEng program is listed next to the undergraduate program in the MIT Bulletin. This is hardly convincing; the adjacency of these two program listings only reflects the overlap of their two intended audiences. The undergraduate program is aimed at undergraduates who wish to graduate with a bachelor's degree while the MEng program is aimed at undergraduates who wish to continue beyond their undergraduate program and take graduate level classes and conduct individual research.

I also fail to see why the fact that many MEng students do not bother to graduate after their senior year and instead decide to receive their two degrees simultaneously means that the MEng program is "nothing more than an extended undergraduate program." There are many reasons to wait to receive the bachelor's degree, including the chance to earn a minor or another bachelor's degree, or a simple lack of desire to go through the graduation process more than once. A student's failure to complete his or her coursework is only one of these reasons.

Finally, I think that perhaps much of Altschul's confusion comes from his unwillingness to recognize the value of an engineering oriented degree (the MEng) as opposed to a science oriented degree (the Master of Science). Successfully completing a significant engineering project, such as that suitable for a MEng thesis, requires an individual to be independent, motivated, organized, and inquisitive. These are the exact same qualities needed in a good basic science researcher.

For all of these reasons I find that Altschul's opinion that the MEng degree as nothing more than an extended undergraduate program to be wrong.

Douglas S. J. De Couto G